As February comes to a close, so does National Children’s Oral Health Month. Affordable Dental Care Inc. has been spending the month visiting local schools and education centers to raise awareness, provide support, and put on fun activities for the kids. Affordable Dental Care Executive Director Areli Estrada says that it is important to pay attention to oral health throughout the year, and how this month serves as a perfect time to spread the word.
“We distributed over 300 free dental kits at local schools,” Estrada told Madison365. “Every February, we celebrate National Children’s Oral Health Month with an objective of engaging children early on about developing healthy oral hygiene habits. At the same time, we’re trying to engage the parents and educate them about how critical oral health is … then we send bilingual surveys home to assess the dental needs of parents. We want to identify whether they have been to a dentist, whether they have a dental home or not, and if they don’t have insurance, they’re more than welcome to come and utilize our services.”
While the young children are able to enjoy fun activities that also educate them on the importance of their oral health, parents have the benefit of learning more about dental service options and how crucial it is to be involved in their children’s oral health, as well. Estrada shared just how vital it is to stay on top of oral health for young children with 1 out of 10 two-year-olds already having one or more cavities increasing to 28% of children having one or more cavities by age three. Worse, nearly 50% of children have one or more cavities by age five. Estrada spoke about how educated parents who have knowledge of and access to trusted dental services can be the difference in the oral health of their children.
“If the parent is not seeing a dentist, the likelihood of the child or the children visiting a dentist’s office is probably not going to happen,” Estrada said, reflecting on the financial, knowledge, and cultural barriers that affect people in varying ways.
“There’s already a level of disengagement from the parents, or there’s people that have a fear or have anxiety. If the parent is experiencing this, imagine what is happening to their children. We’re trying to transform the narrative and develop trust with these communities and with the parents. We provide that comfort and that non-judgmental zone.”
Affordable Dental Care provides access and comfort, and put a focus on bilingual resources and messaging, The organization’s mission to help those who often go under-served stands as an important aspect of their efforts. Appearance at locations such as One City Schools, Calvary Gospel Daycare, Lighthouse Christian School, Mariposa Bilingual Learning Center, and Countryside Montessori Preschool provided kids with a day of learning how to prevent tooth decay and cavities, along with having fun with firefighters and fire engines from the Madison Fire Department. Along with getting kids interested in dental health, addressing the lack of access or resources for some children and adults is also a focus for Estrada and her colleagues.
“We exist because of the lack of a cohesive health care system,” expressed Estrada. “There is not a cohesive, well-established health care system. Oral health is separated from our overall systemic health, so we are creating access. We do tend to see a lot of health disparities in communities of color, and why is that? It goes back to education, knowledge, finances, and language … so we decided to get more creative.”
Of course, Affordable Dental Care always serves as a resource for those in the community who may be uninsured or underinsured. The importance of such service goes hand in hand with the joy and relief that access and care around oral health can bring. For kids and adults, Estrada wanted simply to remind people to have fun when thinking about the benefits of taking care of their teeth and then practicing those good habits.
“I just want to emphasize that the best way to protect a child’s teeth, is to teach the children early on about developing those good dental habits with proper coaching,” Estrada said. “I think that it is our responsibility as parents to coach and guide our child’s well-being and that includes oral health.”
To find out more about Affordable Dental Care and to check out future events, visit their website here.