How to improve children's dental heath - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

How to improve children's dental heath

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

"Too many children with cavities, too many children with missing teeth, and we need our policy makers to step up and start taking a look at how we can improve that".  Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of the Hawaii based nonprofit Good Beginnings Alliance, outlined some of the dental challenges facing Hawaii's youth.

She, with other dental experts, was at the capitol Friday to attend an informational briefing before the House Committee on Health.  The hope was to arm the committee with enough information to move forward with several initiatives to improve the current condition.

"What I want to do and what I think the committee would like to do is understand what is happening nationally, and what is happening locally, and what are the things we can do as a legislature" said Committee Chair Della Au Belatti.

The sense of urgency was created after Pew Charitable Trusts gave Hawaii an ‘F' for its state of dental affairs.

House Bill 2457, which passed the House and is awaiting a Senate hearing, would launch a school based pilot program in which children in need would receive dental sealants.

Dr. Paul Glassman, a professor at the University of the Pacific's School of Dentistry, described what dental sealants are.

"[They] are these plastic coatings which seal the grooves in teeth and help to prevent cavities from starting.  They've been shown to be very effective" he said.

He also outlined other initiatives taking place nationally, such as tele-dentistry.  Tele-dentistry takes dental hygienists out of the office, and into the community for preventative care, instead of waiting for patients to come to the practice.

"It's a way of expanding the reach of dental professionals to reach more people and get preventative services done earlier" Glassman said.

Belatti and other lawmakers know there is much to be done.  Still she and others remain positive.

"I look at it as an opportunity to improve.  We're going to be getting a lot of data and information in the coming years, so we're going to have a lot of work to do".

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