On March 28, in an effort to bring awareness to the continuing oral health needs of Ohio children, the Ohio Children’s Oral Health Action Team (COHAT) released a new a policy brief, “Reasons to Smile.” The brief highlights recent data released from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), innovations in the field—including mobile dentistry and the use of Silver Diamine Fluoride to stop cavities—a young Ohioan’s success story, and new and ongoing opportunities to improve the oral health of all Ohioans.
“Oral health continues to be the #1 unmet health care need for Ohio’s children,” said Brandi Slaughter, CEO of Voices for Ohio’s Children and co-chair of the COHAT. “We are hoping this brief will call attention to some of the tremendous progress that has been made—especially in innovative service delivery and children’s access to health coverage for oral health. Of course, we also want to highlight the work that remains. The new data from ODH showed 51% of Ohio’s 3rd grade children have a history of tooth decay and 17% have untreated cavities. And we know that many disparities persist—for example, the children of Appalachian counties fare worse in comparison to the rest of the state on both of these measures.”
Slaughter also noted that more than 340,000 children in Ohio have never been to a dentist. The brief ends with the story of one of these kids, a 13-year-old boy whose first trip to the dentist was an emergency. With his bleeding gums and multiple teeth lost to years of decay, he experienced chronic mouth pain and a worsening infection. But, after following a long-term treatment plan and adopting daily oral hygiene, this young man truly has a reason to show off his restored smile.
The COHAT was created in 2009 as an outgrowth of the OHD director’s Task Force on Oral Health to fulfill the need for an ongoing, statewide, interdisciplinary oral health advocacy and action group. The COHAT’s membership has grown to over 30 organizations representing providers (dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, and school nurses); community health centers and hospitals; and advocates from the early childhood, school-age, and disability communities from all areas of the state.
The brief is the result of a collaborative effort initiated by COHAT members as part of their celebration of Children’s Dental Health Month, which was in February.