CavityFreeSF aims to eliminate disparities in oral health care

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by Justin Adeyanju

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dental caries, also known as cavities, is the most common chronic childhood disease. It remains five times more common than asthma.

Neighborhoods like Bayview Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley have some of the highest rates of dental caries among children aged 0-5 in San Francisco. In San Francisco, there remains a significant disparity in the populations of children currently experiencing this cavity epidemic.

Caries seem to be higher among African-American, Latino and Asian-American children compared with the numbers seen in White children. Dental caries that are left untreated can lead to problems including pain, infection, lower academic achievement, problems with social interaction and lower self-esteem among children.

In order to attend to this growing epidemic, CavityFreeSF is leading the way in changing the landscape and decreasing the prevalence of this disease in children. CavityFreeSF’s mission is to eliminate disparities in oral health care, giving special attention to populations most at risk, including young children and pregnant women.

The elimination of disparities can be accomplished from many fronts, including policy change, systemic change, preventative care and coordinated citywide efforts. The District 10 Children’s Oral Health Taskforce, hosted by APA Family Support Services, is one of three community-based taskforces designed to collaborate with CavityFreeSF. They are working to promote safe and effective oral health information and access with a special emphasis on African-American children throughout the District 10 area.

In 2018, the District 10 Children’s Oral Health Taskforce held a community focus group in order to gain information about the neighborhood and its cultural perception of oral health, considering barriers and access to dental care. Some of the key findings of the focus group indicated a need for information-based services, a friendlier and more welcoming oral health environment, and more culturally relevant care. At the same time, the taskforce designed a public education campaign to educate caregivers and parents in the District 10 area about best practices and the importance of baby teeth.

The campaign launched in early February 2019, and includes spreading information and tips for maintaining healthy baby teeth, as well as addressing the importance of dental check-ups. Information about the public education campaign is displayed throughout the community in the form of streetlight banners, flyers, posters, and radio ads in and around Visitacion Valley and Bayview.

Many local businesses have shown support by displaying one of the flyers within their establishments. Overall, the District 10 Children’s Oral Health Taskforce hopes that the public education campaign will promote positive oral health practices among young children and caretakers, reinforcing the importance of children’s oral health.

Children’s oral health tips that will help establish positive behavioral habits include having children brush their teeth and floss at least twice a day. It is also vital to limit the amount of sugary beverages that children drink, as sugary foods and drinks can increase the chances of developing dental caries.

Parents, guardians and pregnant women should be aware that studies have linked the fluoride found in toothpaste with a decrease in cavities. The CDC also recommends that children have their first dental visit by age one.

The taskforce is pleased to be working in conjunction with the newly renovated Bayview Hunters Point Clinic at the Arthur H. Coleman Medical Center, featuring a newly renovated medical suite and a state of the art dental clinic.

The center provides a wide variety of specialty services and programs, including chiropractic and psychiatric therapy, substance abuse treatment, enrollment in social services, nutrition and Health Home programs, as well as resource sharing for events and organizations within Bayview Hunters Point. The Arthur H. Coleman Medical Center is located at 6301 Third St. at Ingerson and accepts SFHP, Medi-Cal, Delta Dental, Metlife Dental and several other providers. More information regarding children’s oral health, CavityFreeSF and the community-based taskforces can be found at CavityFreeSF.org.

References

“Children’s Oral Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10 Nov. 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 07 Mar. 2019 <https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/children_adults/child.htm>.

“Children’s Oral Health.” San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership (SFHIP). 05 Mar. 2019 <http://www.sfhip.org/childrens-oral-health.html>.

“Community-Based Children’s Oral Health Task Forces.” CavityFreeSF. 05 Mar. 2019 <http://www.cavityfreesf.org/taskforces/>.

Justin Adeyanju and the District 10 Children’s Oral Health Task Force can be reached at justin.adeyanju@apafss.org.

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