Smiling Schools now in 40 counties
WINCHESTER, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2015) — Ten new counties—Clark, Edmonson, Green, Greenup, Johnson, Letcher, Lewis, Nicholas, Pike and Pulaski—are joining the Smiling School initiative, Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear announced today.
An estimated 17,000 to 18,000 elementary school children in 40 counties participating in the program will receive a protective tooth varnish treatment thanks to the expansion of the program from an $800,000 stream of funding by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Kentucky Oral Health Program.
“Good dental health is a key component of good overall health,” Gov. Beshear 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.”
Smiling Schools, created in 2011 by Gov. Beshear, has provided protective tooth varnish treatment to thousands of elementary-aged children living primarily in distressed counties of Appalachia. The other counties among the 40 participating the current school year 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.
“As Governor, Steve has committed to improving children’s health, and oral health remains one of the major issues facing Kentucky,” Jane. Beshear said. “The problem is even more pronounced among our young people who suffer pain, low self-esteem and poor school performance because of dental issues. Steve and I are thrilled we are able to continue the program by expanding it to more areas of the state.”
Smiling Schools is administered by local health department nurses who provide fluoride varnish treatments to elementary school students in grades 1 through 5.
“Programs and services like Smiling Schools address the provider issue by bringing services directly to children in school-based settings,” said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, Department for Public Health commissioner.
The Department for Public Health works with local health departments to provide educational materials on oral health to the parents of the children receiving treatment.
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.
An evaluation of the Smiling Schools project by the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry showed a 20 percent reduction in decay and fillings, said Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
As part of his statewide health initiative, kyhealthnow, Gov. Beshear aims to reduce the percentage of children with untreated dental decay by 25 percent and increase adult dental visits by 10 percent by the year 2019.
Gov. Beshear recently announced a new loan forgiveness program for dental students who will practice in Eastern Kentucky. The program is supported by $500,000 in state funds available for dental students who practice in the region. The dental schools at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville will administer the program, providing two to five awardees $100,000 each for a two-year commitment.
“We are pleased to be part of Gov. Beshear’s commitment to making Appalachia’s future healthier through partnerships like this,” said Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. “Making dental care accessible will help Kentucky’s kids sink their teeth into their future.”