Oral health disparities are profound in the United States. Dental disease is among the most relevant chronic conditions experienced by children today. Today, millions of children are needlessly afflicted with dental disease simply because they cannot obtain timely preventative, educational or treatment services. Our society has not valued oral health, and the consequences for children include chronic pain, educational failure due to missed school days, poor nutrition, and low self-esteem. Untreated dental diseases can turn a child’s bright future into a minimum-wage blind alley.
Dental diseases are generally preventable with timely oral care, supplemented by screenings, education and a few inexpensive public health measures. Most important is to educate people that the mouth in no less important to a child’s health than other organ in their body.
Scope of the Problem
Tooth decay is the single most prevalent chronic childhood disease.
In the U.S., over 30% of all children’s health expenditures are devoted to dental care.
Dental sealants are protective coatings applied on the top surfaces of permanent molars to prevent carious lesions (cavities) from developing.
Low-income children visit the dentist less frequently and thus are among the children who are most commonly afflicted with dental disease.
Early childhood caries affects approximately 11% of children under the age of 5 and costs more than $3,000 to treat each child.
Children from families with low incomes have nearly 12 times the restricted activity days (e.g. days for missed school) because of dental problems, as children from families with higher incomes.
Create a society in which more children can have access to dental care.
Dr. Misee Harris Project Smile strives to:
Identify communities nationwide that have a low access to dental care.
Increase public awareness of oral health care disparities and create an understanding of the determinants of proper home oral hygiene techniques.
Provide dental examinations, preventative dental sealants, and comprehensive dental care to children ages 4-18.
Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable dental diseases.
Achieve equity, eliminate dental disparities, and improve the oral health of children ages 4-18.
Create social and physical environments that promote good oral health.
Promote quality of life, healthy development, healthy eating habits and healthy living habits in children who are from low income and rural areas.
The comprehensive initiative includes:
Creation of funding projects to assist Dr. Misee Harris to travel to communities in an effort to create access to dental care to children in underserved and rural areas across the US.