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Children's Dental Health Month Press Release: First 5's Address Children's Oral Health Needs

LOS ANGELES------Southern California's First 5 Commissions are tackling the health care needs of poor children one tooth at a time. According to an independently produced research report, local First 5 commissions have expended some $21 million and made quality oral health care available to one out of every 11 children age 5 and under in the eight Southern California counties.

"We applaud the county First 5 commissions for their investments in children's oral health programs," said Jon R. Roth, executive director of the California Dental Association Foundation. "First 5's commitment to oral health as a priority has resulted in California's children receiving critical oral health services that have not only improved the children's oral health status, but also each child's overall well being."

"We look forward to First 5 continuing to focus on oral health efforts around the state," Roth said.

Although tooth decay is the most common preventable illness, recent findings from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), show that one in three children between the ages of 1 and 5 years across the Southern California region, did not have access to dental insurance and a third had never visited a dentist.

In fact, approximately 40 percent of young children in Riverside County and 50 percent in San Bernardino County had no history of dental services. This means that an estimated 651,534 out of 1.9 million children in Southern California are at risk for poor oral health.

Because the problem is so critical in Southern California counties, First 5 Commissions in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties began a major effort in 2004 to combat tooth decay, the most prevalent unmet health care need among children from low-income families. Over the last five years, the regional First 5 Commissions have provided oral health services to more than 248,000 children.

This is a growing problem among Southern California's young children and, when left untreated, can contribute to a wide range of problems, including poor nutrition, sub-normal growth, and unnecessary pain. And tooth decay is estimated to cause children to miss over 51 million hours of school each year.

"It is unnecessary and all the more unfortunate that any child experiences pain and suffering as a result of dental disease that has not been treated or that could have been prevented," said? Dr. Steven Uranga McKane, clinical director of The Children's Dental Center of Greater Los Angeles.

The First 5 Southern California Alliance for Learning and Results (SCALAR) study was conducted through Davis Ja Associates along with EMT Associates and the Center for Non-Profit Management.

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