Promising tooth varnish that prevents tooth decay will be applied to 25,000 students in 16 Kentucky Appalachian counties

Using an innovative fluoride technique, about 25,000 children in 16 Appalachian Kentucky counties will receive preventive dental care at school, under a $1.25 million pilot project announced by Gov. Steve Beshear yesterday. The counties are Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Elliott, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Owsley, Perry, Russell and Wolfe.
In the Smiling Schools program, children in first to fifth grades “will have their teeth painted with two fluoride treatments over a four- to six-month period,” reports Mike Wynn of The Courier-Journal. “Fluoride prevents and reverses the early affects of tooth decay and slows the progress of existing problems.”
(Photo by James Mann, The Winchester Sun: Emily Havens of Clark County gets the treatment)
The University of Kentucky Dental School will examine the children before and after the tooth varnish treatments to assess the effectiveness of the program. Results of a project that Beshear said inspired the program are promising. About 3,000 children in Clark County had their teeth painted with the varnish and decay rates in a group of sixth graders fell dramatically. By the third year of the treatment, decay rates had fallen from 50 percent to 14.5 percent, one of the lowest rates in the state, said dentist Rankin Skinner, who spearheaded the project.
In 2001, Kentucky children had tooth decay in their baby teeth almost twice as often as the national average, Beshear said Thursday. More than 46 percent of children ages 2 to 4 went untreated that year. “The impact of these dental problems is much more than just an uneven smile or a poor national image, Beshear said. “Dental problems affect overall health and development — everything from nutritional choices to speech development to performance in school.” (Read more)
Rachel Parsons of The Winchester Sun reports that the impetus for the project was a December 2007 New York Times story about Kentucky’s poor dental health, particularly that of children. Prompted by his son who read the story, Will Hodgkin of the Clark County Community Foundation contacted Skinner, who had learned of the varnish while completing a study in Ecuador, where dentists had noted big decreases in decay rates after using the substance on teeth. The foundation funded treatment for all preschool and elementary students in 2008-09, and the program is now run by the Clark County Health Department. (Read more)
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