There are a number of people who got up early this morning, brushed their teeth, left the house, and came to downtown Louisville to attend the 2015 Kentucky Oral Health Summit.
Some 200 attendees here are thinking about tooth decay, gum disease, and the state of oral health in the commonwealth. That’s a good thing because dental issues pose significant and costly problem for Kentuckians. Consider just a few statistics:
- -The state has one of the highest rates in the nation of adults without their original teeth.
- -Half of young students in the state have tooth decay and cavities.
- -And 10 percent of us have never been to a dentist.
Where do a large number of Kentuckians with tooth and gum problems go for treatment? Their local emergency room, especially if they’re uninsured or have limited dental coverage.
Dr. Nikki Stone is dental director for the University of Kentucky North Fork Valley Community Health Center in Hazard. She is known for her pioneering work in preventative health programs in eastern Kentucky. I asked her about the factors that prevent us from better meeting the oral health needs of kids and adults in the state.
It’s called a “Kentucky report card on kids” and it has traced how the state’s youngest citizens and their families have faired over the last 25 years.
The 2015 Kids Count report from the Kentucky Youth Advocates shows the state gets passing grades in some areas, but it also reveals that much work remains to be done.
The study measures child welfare in all 120 counties by examining factors like economic security, education, health, and family and community strength. Not surprisingly child poverty continues to be a challenge for families and households across the state.
Terry Brooks is executive director of KYA. He told me about the areas where the state still needs to do better by its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.