Sally Vandenbos, a consulting nurse with Cobb County Schools, said that because so many people don’t like going to the dentist and parents aren’t as consistent about taking their child to appointments, dental health has become a problem. According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, 27 percent of all Georgia third-graders have untreated tooth decay. Cobb County numbers are not available.
“It’s about taking care of the teeth and brushing,” she said. “(Not brushing will) grow a cavity and eventually it will cause pain, and when (the student) is in pain they have a hard time studying and concentrating, and that could cause children to stay home from school.”
Vandenbos, who is part of the Georgia Association of School Nurses task force that was formed to promote good dental health, said the problem can easily be treated by reminding children to brush and floss their teeth after every meal or at least before they go to school and before bed.
“It’s about getting the food out from between the teeth,” she said.
She also said dental health problems can lead to bad eating habits.
“When you can’t chew, you aren’t eating a healthy diet, and you can have more issues,” she said.
The American Dental Association says that a parent or guardian should start caring for their child’s teeth and arrange for a dental appointment when the child is 1 year old.
“It’s about getting them used to having someone look into their mouths so that the first time they go, they aren’t screaming,” she said.
She recommends that a child see a dentist at least twice a year and replace toothbrushes every two to three months.
The district does not have a district-wide effort to help combat dental health problems, but Vandenbos said every school is running some type of program to help fight the problem.
“There are schools that offer a program through either WellStar or Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta where people come in and teach them how to brush and floss their teeth. Some schools have a dentist come in,” she said. “There are dental vans that can also come to schools and offer a program to children with Medicaid, Peachcare and private insurance.”
A van, known as the Smile Mobile, also visits some schools in the county. It provides dental care to a handful of students at each school, filling cavities or cleaning teeth.
Some schools also send home informational packets for students or a homework coloring sheet to help parents show their children the correct way to brush and floss.
Hayes Elementary School, located off Kennesaw Due West Road in north Cobb, has been active in teaching its students about dental care.
Coach Chrissy Camp, the school’s health teacher, said oral health is a standard learning practice only for second-graders, but the school tries to educate all children on the importance of dental care.
This week, using toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste donated by Legacy Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry in Kennesaw, Camp taught students how to care for their teeth by identifying the parts of the teeth and having them practice proper oral hygiene.
“What we teach the children, whether it be brushing or flossing, just helps them become healthy adolescents and adults,” she said. “A lot of times, students go home and tell parents what they are learning. They are advocates for their families. Children with healthy teeth are shown to be healthier in general. It’s important to the education of the whole child.”