As you may or may not know February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Right now, Oregon has one of the country’s highest rates of childhood dental disease with 52% of children between 6-9 years of age experiencing tooth decay. These challenges can keep children out of school and create costly financial strains on families struggling to make ends meet.
Last year Mike Coughlin, Burley’s owner, made a contribution to Oregon Community Foundation’s Children’s Dental Health Initiative Fund to purchase over 5, 000 dental kits, which were assembled by Burley employees and volunteers. The kits were distributed to children through school districts and nonprofits in the Eugene area. The thank you notes to Mike Coughlin and Burley Design for the commitment to improve children’s dental health were much appreciated and inspired us to go big! They came pouring in from all the “Hapee” children and thankful school staff members.
This year Burley is working with United Way and more local businesses to provide Dental Health Kits for every child age 3-10 in all Lane County, OR!! That means we’ll be packing 30, 000 dental health kits! We will be working with as many volunteers as possible to compete the task. Check back on our progress this winter as we dive in and start putting together our largest dental kit donation. We hope to continue growing this program to help minimize childhood dental disease.
More from The Oregon Community Foundation:
“I’ve told the team I used to work with in Haiti as a volunteer dentist that I need to stay here and take care of the children in my own backyard. The need here is just as great as anything I’ve seen in the developing countries where I’ve provided volunteer dentistry.”—Dr. Park McClung, Cottage Grove
Oregon has one of the country’s highest rates of childhood dental disease, which is the most common chronic disease affecting U.S. children. As Dr. Weston Heringer Jr. of The Dental Foundation of Oregon recently noted, “We have as much dental disease in Oregon as there is anywhere else in the world.”
The causes of this preventable epidemic include inadequate education, economic hardship, lack of dental insurance and limited access to services. If left untreated, dental disease can be devastating to children’s health, educational success, productivity and self-image.
Preventing tooth decay isn’t just good medical practice; it also makes good economic sense. The cost of effective early intervention is negligible compared to the social and economic costs of widespread, untreated dental disease. As an example, the CDC estimates that every dollar spent annually on water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs.
Furthermore, current medical research indicates that dental disease can play a significant role in many other medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. As statewide dental director Dr. Bruce Austin explains, “There’s such a connection between decreasing oral inflammation and overall health. It greatly improves overall health.”
Due to the urgent statewide need for early intervention and OCF’s history of supporting dental health, OCF joined with other funders to host the Open Wide Summit for Oral Health Funders in May 2011. As a result of this summit, they formally established the Oral Health Funders Collaborative in September 2011.
In November 2012, the OCF board made children’s dental health a strategic priority for the Foundation. In subsequent months, OCF focused on conducting a baseline assessment of childhood oral health, developing an inventory of statewide resources, and building relationships with key stakeholders.
In spring 2014, OCF launched its statewide children’s dental health initiative. Through this five-year initiative, OCF and its partners will work together to solve the systemic problems that prevent Oregon children from accessing timely, age-appropriate dental services, including cultural barriers, lack of insurance, and the shortage of providers in rural communities. The initiative has three primary aims:
Priorities include developing a strategic oral health plan for Oregon; training primary care providers on oral disease prevention; expanding school-based dental health promotion programs; supporting legislation that will improve oral health for all children in Oregon; and funding necessary research to strengthen the rationale for policy changes.
In June 2014, The Oregon Community Foundation, Northwest Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Providence Health & Services, and other funding partners joined together to increase access to education and prevention services by supporting school-based children’s dental health promotion programs across the state. Please visit our Current Grants tab for more information about this effort.
If you would like to contribute to the Children’s Dental Health Initiative, please donate now to our Children’s Dental Health Fund. Funders and other organizations that would like to partner with OCF are encouraged to contact: