Tooth varnish saving smiles in Clark County

To protect about 3,000 Clark County children from tooth decay, local dentists and volunteers headed to schools to apply a fluoride varnish earlier this month. “We knew this material worked, although it was a new material, and there wasn’t a lot of research on it at the time,” dentist Rankin Skinner told The Winchester Sun‘s Rachel Parsons.

Skinner became concerned after learning that Kentucky children have more tooth decay than anywhere else in the country, a fact he gleaned from a Christmas Eve 2007 article in The New York Times. The same day, one of Skinner’s friends read the article by Ian Urbina and called him to come up with a plan. “Skinner had recently completed a study on tooth decay in Ecuador, and the participating dentists had seen great improvement in oral health using a material new to the market at that time called amorphous calcium phosphate,” Parsons reports.

Local dentists and the Clark County Community Foundation, of which Skinner’s friend was a member, got together to get the varnish in Clark County. Twice a year, the dentists go to elementary and pre-schools to apply it on students’ teeth, such as those of Emily Havens (above, Sun photo by James Mann). “We wanted to get the material on there as soon as the teeth came in,” Skinner said. “There’s just too much decay out there to be fixed. We knew we needed a preventative program.”

Dentists found evidence of tooth decay in half the students the first year, but noted an 11 percent drop in decay in sixth-grade students after the first year. They track progress annually and conduct full exams on sixth-grade students to check for cavities. If any are found, parents are informed. Students are also given tooth brushes at the beginning of each school year. (Read more)

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