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Iowa celebrates National Children's Dental Health Month in February.

February is Children's Dental Health Month, and it reminds me of dental health care when I was a child in suburban Minneapolis.

My mom took me to a dentist who worked near our home in Edina, Minn. His name was "Dr. Hershey," as I recall, thinking it was funny his name was also the name of my favorite candy company.

Dental care was pretty basic in the early 1960s, and I remember pain, and being very uncomfortable. Dr. Hershey wasn't a very nice practitioner, but he was nothing like the evil dentist in the movie "Marathon Man."

Dental care has come a long way since I was a kid. Good thing, because I need a lot of such care these days!

Below, find a news release on the topic from the Iowa Department of Public Health:

February is National Children’s Dental Health month and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans beginning good habits early and scheduling regular dental visits by age 1 helps children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

While a bright smile is an attractive feature, research shows dental health has an impact far deeper than outward appearance.

“A child with cavities and a painful mouth can lose focus while learning new skills at school and at home. They may also have difficulty eating food, which helps their bodies to grow,” said IDPH Dental Director, Dr. Bob Russell. “A child with a healthy mouth will have more confidence when speaking, eating, and smiling.”

The IDPH I-Smile™ Dental Home Initiative is a program that helps Iowa's children connect with dental services. Using a team approach, dentists provide definitive evaluation and treatment when it is needed. Other health professionals such as dental hygienists, physicians, and nurses are a part of a larger network and can provide oral screenings, education, anticipatory guidance, and preventive services as needed.

According to Iowa Medicaid paid claims data, 59 percent more Medicaid-enrolled children received care from a dentist in 2014 than in 2005 and 149 more dentists billed Medicaid for care provided to a Medicaid-enrolled child than in 2005. In addition, the average cost per Medicaid-enrolled child is decreasing. For children ages 10-12, the average cost per child in 2014 was 27 percent less than in 2005, although more children were seen by dentists. Early prevention may be resulting in less need for restorative treatment.

For more information about I-Smile™, visit this site.

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