KINGMAN - A shortage of dentists as well as poor diet is leading to tooth decay in Arizona and Mohave County children, according to the Department of Health.
According to a 2009 DHS survey, 4 percent of Arizona children experience tooth decay by their first birthday. That percentage increases to 16 percent by age 2, 32 percent by age 3 and 52 percent by their fourth birthday.
Untreated tooth decay impacts 30 percent of Arizona children ages 2 to 4 while only 16 percent are impacted in the total United States.
The Mohave County Board of Health heard a presentation on the oral health status of preschool children in Arizona July 9. Mohave/La Paz Regional Oral Health Coalition Coordinator Maggie Wilcox, who is a registered dental hygienist, gave a presentation on the 2009 survey of Arizona children ages from birth to 4 years.
She said that prevention of tooth decay needs a comprehensive, integrated approach that addresses things such as access to community water fluoridation and number of dental providers and economic issues such as payment of dental services and dental insurance.
She labeled Bullhead City, Fort Mohave, Dolan Springs, Littlefield and the Hualapai Tribe Rational Service Area as five health professional shortage areas.
"Children and families living in Arizona's workforce shortage areas often need to travel long distances to a dental practice to seek care and/or that accepts their insurance plans," she said.
"The presentation was extremely informative and ever so depressing," Mohave County Department of Public Health Director Patty Mead said. "The level of oral health for local infants and toddlers is not good. Parents need to bring their children to a dentist by their first birthdays. The board is concerned of the high percentage of tooth decay for young children."
The Board of Health unanimously voted to, "Increase the awareness of oral health needs in Mohave County and encourage education among all elementary school children and preschool children about the importance of good teeth brushing and flossing," although its not clear how they intend to do that.
There are two safety-net dental clinics available to Mohave County residents. They are Mohave Community College Dental Programs Clinic, which handles preventative dental care and Northwest Arizona Regional Health Center. The facilities provide oral health care to individuals and families regardless of their ability to pay for services.