KET programs focus on oral health, ‘just as critical to the well-being of Kentuckians’ as problems that have a higher profile

Kentucky Educational Television has turned its attention to oral health, which it says is “just as critical to the well-being of Kentuckians” as the state’s “alarmingly high rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.”

KET’s John Gregory, in a story about three recent programs, notes that two in five Kentucky children have never been to a dentist and “Poor oral health can contribute to other physical problems like
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and possibly even Alzheimer’s. It can
impact how students learn.”

“There’s thousands of children on a daily basis attending school with
pain that is totally preventable,” Louisville health-care consutant Lacey McNary said on KET’s “Connections” with Renee Shaw. “It is really hurting
them with their success rates in school and otherwise overall

McNary and Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, a dentist with the University of Kentucky‘s Western Kentucky Dental Outreach Program, blamed the lack of dentists in rural Kentucky and the refusal of many dentists to accept Medicaid, which covers 1.3 million Kentuckians.

But there are more longstanding factors, such as smoking, which makes periodontal disease six times more likely, and eating habits. “Jones says foods rich in carbohydrates and beverages that are high in sugar
create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that feed tooth-eating
acids,” Gregory reports.

And Jones says we have other bad habits, too: “She says studies show that almost a third of the population never
flosses, and brushing and flossing twice a day is recommended. She adds
that fear also contributes to bad oral health outcomes.”

Other recent reports from KET have reported on a study of the state’s oral health, the importance of good oral-health practices to seniors, and how the use of dental sealants in schools with high-risk populations has helped improve oral health.

The latter program featured Dr. M. Raynor Mullins, professor emeritus at UK’s College of Dentistry, who “was instrumental in getting dental
sealants added to Kentucky’s Medicaid program as a preventive service in
the 1990s and has been involved with numerous oral health outreach
initiatives across the state during the past 40 years,” Gregory reports.

“A tooth has multiple surfaces … smooth surfaces and pit-and-fissure
surfaces,” Mullins explains. “Smooth surfaces are the sides of the teeth, and
fluorides are very effective about strengthening them. On the other
hand, you have these pits, crannies, and fissures on the tops of the
teeth and in certain locations on the sides of the teeth, where they are
very susceptible to the infection of tooth decay. Sealants are very
effective in preventing pit-and-fissure decay.”

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