Stafford: Clark County faces dental health issues

TS: I, Tom Stafford, do solemnly swear that I shall tell the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth, so help me God.

Judge: Mr. District Attorney, you may examine the witness.

DA: Mr. Stafford, isn’t it true that you recently interviewed one, let’s see, Joan Elder, an employee of the Community Health Foundation?

TS: I did.

DA: I see. What did you discuss?

TS: Teeth found in Clark County.

DA: Human teeth, isn’t that right, Mr. Stafford? …. Mr. Stafford?

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TS: Yes. Human teeth.

DA: What did Ms. Elder, disclose about these human teeth?

TS: Two things. That those of us who live in Clark County have fewer of them in our mouths than we should have and that the ones we have more cavities.

DA: And what evidence did she offer?

TS: Fifty one percent of third-graders in Ohio have cavities while 67 percent of third-graders in Clark County do.

DA: Says who?

TS: The Ohio Department of Health.

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DA: And how does that compare to other counties in the state?

TS: Tied for second worst. And about 40 percent of fourth graders have untreated cavities, too. Again, second worst in the state – and worse than the national average.

DA: As I understand it, tooth decay is the number one chronic health problem children face?

TS: That’s right.

DA: So why doesn’t anybody do anything about it?

TS: People who care are trying to. They’ve started an oral health initiative. They want to get more people into the dentist and let parents in particular know how to care for their kids’ teeth.

DA: And what does that involve?

TS: For one, not putting babies to bed with bottles.

DA: Why?

TS: The sugar in the milk grows bacteria, which produces the acid that eats away at the teeth.

DA: How about juice?

TS: The sugar in it does the same thing.

DA: But they lose their baby teeth, right?

TS: True. But kids with cavities in their baby teeth are three times more likely to get them in their permanent teeth – well, permanent until they aren’t there anymore.

DA: So they should brush?

TS: A couple of times a day with fluoride toothpaste everywhere, but especially if they live in Springfield or New Carlisle.

DA: And why’s that?

TS: There’s not enough fluoride in the water in either city to help fight tooth decay. South Charleston, South Vienna, Catawba and North Hampton all have enough because it’s naturally occurring in the water there. But all told in the county, roughly 27,500 people have enough fluoride in their water and 71,500 don’t. And, by the way, Ms. Elder said there’s no fluoride in bottled water, something the people in Flint found out the hard way.

DA: And what does fluoride do?

TS: It helps heal and toughen teeth — and prevent cavities. By the way, Springfield and New Carlisle do have something going for them. Both have federally approved dental clinics, at the Rocking Horse Center and New Carlisle Community Health Center. Both of them get higher reimbursements for dental care.

DA: If bacteria is the bad guy, should you clean an infant’s mouth?

TS: Yep, by wiping her gums with a soft, damp cloth.

DA: A clean one?

TS: I’ll let you figure that one out.

DA: And start brushing when?

TS: Gently when the first tooth comes through.

DA: And see the dentist?

TS: At age 1, because, by the time they get to kindergarten, about half of the kids have tooth decay.

DA: How about adults?

TS: Well, kids with more cavities grow into adults with more cavities and, eventually, fewer teeth. Dr. Nezhad says adults with fewer teeth don’t eat as well, smile as much or feel like they can be themselves around others. I’m sure you’ve seen that.

DA: Wait, who’s the doctor?

TS: Kayvon Nezhad, a Springfield dentist. He just talked one of the guys who delivers packages to his office to stop in for a visit.

DA: And he’s in on this?

TS: He and about 30 other people on a committee working with the Community Health Foundation.

DA: Anything else?

TS: Well, the only place I know tooth pain is popular in the ER at Springfield Regional Medical Center.

DA: Popular?

TS: It’s among the top 10 reasons people show up there.

DA: Really?

TS: I swore I’d tell the tooth and nothing but.


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