Whitesburg KY

Making smiles happen

Caleb Eldridge, a third grader at Letcher Elementary School, was examined by Dr. Charles Tritle.

Caleb Eldridge, a third grader at Letcher Elementary School, was examined by Dr. Charles Tritle.

Take good care of your teeth and you’ll have them for the rest of your life.

That’s the advice Dr. Charles Tritle, a dentist contracted by the University of Louisville to conduct oral health screenings in 60 Kentucky counties, gave to a boy in the third grade at Letcher Elementary School during a visit there last week.

“Brush teeth two minutes a day — once before school and once before bedtime — with warm tap water,” Tritle said while showing a third-grade girl the proper way to brush her teeth.

Tritle reminded her to brush back and forth and not to forget to brush along the gum lines. Not brushing long enough and missing gum lines are the two most common brushing mistakes among third- and sixthgraders in Kentucky, Tritle has noticed since he began collecting data in December for the Making Smiles Happen Surveillance Initiative. By the time Tritle finishes the oral health screenings, he will have examined the teeth of nearly 6,000 children.

The screenings and parent questionnaires are the two main components of the study’s standardized model created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.

It has been 15 years since the last statewide oral health surveillance project was conducted by the Kentucky Department for Public Health. Cliff Maesaka, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Kentucky, said a current study is necessary to identify current oral health needs among children in Kentucky.

“In order to improve, we need to know where we are starting,” said Maesaka. “If we know where we are, we can measure improvement.”

The oral health screenings for the Making Smiles Happen Surveillance Initiative is funded through Making Smiles Happen, the charitable initiative of Delta Dental of Kentucky. Kentucky Youth Advocates, the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition are also partners in the oral health surveillance project.

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