BACK TO SCHOOL MESSAGE: HEALTHY TEETH MEANS BETTER STUDENTS
days are getting shorter. The neighborhood beaches and swimming pools are
emptying. The lemonade stands are closing shop. It's that time of year again
- the school bell is ringing and it is time to get the kids ready for a new
your children sharpened their pencils and packed their backpacks? Most
importantly, have your children visited the dentist for a checkup? That's
right. A trip to the dentist is crucial and should be an essential step in
getting the kids prepared for school.
was shocked to learn that tooth decay is now the number one chronic illness
in children and toothaches are a leading cause of school absenteeism. In
fact, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates a staggering 51 million school hours
are missed each year due to the effects of dental disease. Sadly, 25 percent
of all children have never seen a dentist before entering kindergarten.
I read the "2003 National Grading Project" by Oral Health America,
the nation's premier independent organization devoted to dental health. The
"report card" analyzed many factors that contribute to dental
health in categories such as prevention, access, infrastructure, health
status and policies. The State of Illinois earned an overall grade of C+, but
earned failing or below average grades in key categories such as dental care
access and youth tobacco use.
we have made great strides in the past. The Illinois Fluoridation Statute was
enacted in 1967 requiring all community water systems to adjust their
fluoride to optimal levels. Today, Illinois is one of only 12 states with a
mandatory fluoridation law.
there are school-based programs in Illinois that offer dental sealants that
are applied to the surface of molars to ward off cavities in young teeth.
There is even growing public awareness of positive dental behaviors. But what
we're doing is not enough because 38 percent of six- to eight-year-olds in
Illinois have untreated tooth decay.
disease in Illinois students has reached epidemic proportions. We need to
ensure that systems are in place to guarantee good dental health so that our
young people can thrive in the classrooms. This is an education issue, public
health issue and economic issue facing every Illinoisan and much more needs
to be done.
is why I have made dental health a top priority and will strongly urge the
General Assembly to pass a mandatory school dental screenings bill in the
upcoming legislative session.
policy would require each child to have a dental screening in the same way as
health exams for kindergarten, fifth and ninth grade. Students would have to
show proof of certain immunizations and tests (confirmation of a dental exam)
upon starting that school year.
disease in children is preventable and treatable and can be caught early. Did
you know that postponing annual dental visits could add hundreds of dollars
to the cost of needed dental treatment in the long run? Dental decay can be
controlled before it leads to problems with eating, speaking, concentrating
and learning. How can a child succeed in school with a chronic untreated
addition to pushing for tougher dental health care legislation, I have added
a dental component to my website at www.patquinn.org
that is dedicated to serve as a dental health resource to families across
Illinois. Parents can find help locating a dental professional, teenagers can
see the grisly effects of using chewing tobacco and children can participate
in learning activities that promote good dental hygiene.
I will provide the ongoing support of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor
for dental health awareness campaigns such as the Tour de Smile national bike
relay. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Tour de Smile cyclists
as they crossed through Illinois as part of their 4,200-mile journey.
Tour de Smile baton is being passed across the nation similar to the passing
of the Olympic torch. The Tour de Smile cyclists have been passing the baton
from state to state to raise awareness and funds for dental programs for
economically disadvantaged children. The riders pushed off the tour in
California on July 11, and after riding through 13 states, they will cross
the finish line in New York on September 14.
cyclists of the Tour de Smile are pedaling for the common good - in the
spirit of the 1950s Mothers March Against Polio and recent grassroots
programs to prevent youth smoking. Two years ago this month, I walked across
Illinois from the Mississippi River to the shores of Lake Michigan to promote
the Bernardin Amendment calling for decent health care for everyone.
advocacy and education, we can improve our state's mediocre report card and
combat dental disease to help improve the dental health of Illinois'
children. So if your kids haven't been to the dentist lately, make it part of
their back-to-school routine. It will save you money over the long run and
instill a behavior pattern in your children that will serve them for life.