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.”
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.