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Tennessee officials aim to curb childhood tooth decay
Updated: 5/15/2013 11:00:00 AM

Tennessee officials aim to curb childhood tooth decay

It's becoming increasingly clear that dental health is essential to the well-being of the rest of the body, yet many children and adults alike struggle to gain access to the dental care they need. However, according to a recent article published by Clarksville Online, officials in Tennessee have been doing more to make sure that kids are getting the dental services that they need in the hope that this will set them up for a lifetime of healthy behaviors. 

The news source explained that new legislation enacted by the 108th General Assembly and recently signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will give dental hygienists more flexibility when it comes to performing preventative dental services. 

Dentists aren't always there
Studies have found that while it's ideal to have a dentist perform dental services, some rural areas have very few dentists around. This is why some states have proposed expanding the role of hygienists so they can step in when dentists may not be present. 

"Oral health is not just about nice smiles or freedom from painful dental decay. We are increasingly understanding it is essential primary prevention of serious illness and educational and economic distress," Tennessee Health Department commissioner John Dreyzehner, M.D., M.P.H., told Clarksville Online. "We applaud our legislature and the dental professional community for taking the first step in saying Tennessee's history of poor oral health must end with this generation of our children."

The state is planning on offering more dental sealants and topical fluoride varnish treatments in schools, which will hopefully help keep children from developing cavities and tooth decay. This isn't only important for children's health, but it could also save the state money. The TDH estimated that the return on investment for every dollar spent on preventing early childhood tooth decay will be between $300 and $3,000. 

The role of hygienists 
According to the American Dental Association, dental hygienists are able to remove plaque from all surfaces of the teeth and perform other preventative dental measures, such as applying sealants and fluoride. This is why these individuals should be considered an important resource in the battle against childhood tooth decay. Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied over the back teeth in order to keep them from falling prey to the types of bacteria that can cause tooth decay. It takes mere minutes to apply these sealants, and they can last for years, which is why more children should have access to them. 

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