Health Council hears updates on oral care, child advocacy

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 9/3/18

A recent gathering of the Bradley County Health Council featured presentations on oral care and child advocacy.

The two guest speakers were Jillian Swafford with Cloudland Dental and Rosalyn …

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Health Council hears updates on oral care, child advocacy

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A recent gathering of the Bradley County Health Council featured presentations on oral care and child advocacy.

The two guest speakers were Jillian Swafford with Cloudland Dental and Rosalyn Leavell-Rice, a regional program administrator with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

Speaking first was Swafford, who highlighted the rise in tooth decay she has seen in young children as a result of early childhood caries, or cavities. ECC is defined as the presence of one or more decayed, missing or filled tooth surfaces in any primary tooth in a preschool-age child between birth and 71 months of age.

“We only see children until the age of 21. There are only two doctors who see kids with TennCare, and to say that we are overrun with childhood caries is an understatement,” Swafford said. “This is because so many parents don’t take their kids to get their teeth checked out until they are a few years old.”

Swafford used the phrase, “First tooth, first visit,” and stressed the importance of bringing children to the dentist as soon as a tooth appears.

The No. 1 chronic illness of children is ECC, according to Swafford. She cites the lack of information given in most teething brochures as the reasoning for the epidemic. For example, many parents allow their baby to sleep with a bottle of milk in their mouth. What most parents don’t understand is how the high sugar content of milk slowly eats away at these infants’ gums and teeth. Essentially, the babies are having their teeth decayed from the start.

One contributing factor for ECC most people are unaware of is the consumption of sports drinks by young athletes. Although drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are full of electrolytes and truly do rehydrate consumers, they also carry with them an immensely high sugar content that quickly destroys tooth enamel. Swafford said she often will see athletes visit who have unhealthy teeth; the first question she will ask is if they are drinking sports drinks and how many per day, if so. One other contributing factor that mostly affects athletes is the use of mouth guards. While they are practical, Swafford encourages all athletes to either disinfect their mouth guards often, or regularly change them, as wearing a mouth guard repeatedly is a breeding ground for bacteria. She compared this to a person never changing their socks.

For those concerned about oral cancer, a cancer test is not covered by insurance and will cost $30. It’s this cost that often prevents patients from being tested. Swafford said if oral cancer is visible to the naked eye, it’s already been present for three to four years.

Rice then took over and spoke on the strides the TCCY has been making to help further policies in Congress which aid children.

“Our vision is that all children in Tennessee are safe, healthy, nurtured and supported and engage in opportunities to help them achieve their fullest potential,” Rice said.

TCCY does the research on every bill that applies to children and families and will meet with legislators annually about these bills. The staff creates a policy guideline to give to the legislators which states whether a bill will be positive or negative for children and discusses these implications. Rice praised Mayor-elect and state Rep. Kevin Brooks for fighting for insurance to continue paying for autism services even after autism was changed to Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V.

“We stay on ‘the Hill’ for two days, ensuring we go over every bill that relates to these children and families,” Rice said.

Another aspect of TCCY is its Kids Count Data Center, which provides legislators, public officials and child advocates reliable data and policy recommendation. This allows TCCY staff to make recommendations to the governor on what funding should go toward. The four main focuses of the organization is well-being, education, economics and health.

Court Appointed Special Advocates grants are also a segment of TCCY, which involves volunteers serving as advocates in the best interests of neglected, abused and dependent kids.

Rice stressed the importance of ensuring a better future for children and families in general.

If interested in contacting TCCY, go to www.tn.gov/tccy, the organization’s Facebook or its Twitter.

Cloudland Dental can be contacted at 423-559-0157 or via its Facebook.

The Bradley County Health Council will meet again on Sept. 25 at Peerless Road Church.

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