Lawrence County was one of first to join effort…
Smiling Schools tooth-varnish program expands to 10 more counties; now in 40
No doubt Pat Machir and Carolyn McGinn of the Lawrence County Health Dept. are “smiling” these days as a much needed dental health program in Kentucky is growing and gaining momentum.
Kentucky’s Smiling Schools program is expanding to 10 more counties and will now provide its free preventive tooth varnishing treatments to children in 40 elementary schools, most in Appalachia, according to a state press release.
Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, along with others, made the announcement at the Clark County Health Department on Sept. 22.
“Good dental health is a key component of good overall health,” the governor said, “Kentucky’s children deserve the best start in life, and the latest round of our Smiling Schools program will help even more children live up to their full potential in the classroom and beyond.”
Lawrence County dentists are advising and assisting in the program called “Smile Savers” featuring Mojo the mascot, which was one of the first programs of its kind in Kentucky. School visits and parental participation have been a big part of the local program.
Kentucky ranks 41st in annual dental visits; 45th in the percentage of children with untreated dental decay; and 47th in the percentage of adults 65 and older missing six or more teeth, according to the release.
Funding for the Smiling Schools program, which will now reach almost 18,000 students with the expansion, is provided by an $800,000 stream of funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Kentucky Oral Health Program.
The protective varnish treatments provided by the program are administered at the participating elementary schools by local health department nurses. Oral health educational materials are also provided to the parents of the children receiving treatment.
The 10 new counties joining the program are Clark, Edmonson, Green, Greenup, Johnson, Letcher, Lewis, Nicholas, Pike and Pulaski.
The counties already participating in the program are: Bath, Bell, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Hart, Jackson, Knox, Lawrence, Leslie, Lincoln, McCreary, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Metcalfe, Montgomery, Monroe, Morgan, Owsley, Powell, Robertson, Rockcastle, Rowan, Whitley and Wolfe.
Health Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said that the Smiling Schools program had reduced tooth decay and fillings by 20 percent, according to a study by the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.
Posted by Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.