OZARK, Mo -- A new report says programs in the Show Me State need to provide more dental care for low-income families.
Dentists we spoke to say they take the report from the Pew Center on States seriously, but offer a different perspective.
Yes, more kids need dental care, but it's not because of a lack of access; instead, it's because parents haven't made dental care a priority.
Jackie Barger is the executive director of the Children's Smile Center - a non-profit office serving Barry, Lawrence, Stone and Christian counties.
He says southwest Missouri is ahead of the curve - his office sees almost 800 kids a month. The number could grow if parents considered dental health a priority for their children.
"If we can set up the foundation where they like coming to the dentist, and we get families and kids like coming here - we go a long way to set up a prevention mindset instead of a crisis or emergency mindset," Barger tells KSPR News.
The report says the key to improved dental health is sealants - clear plastic coatings applied to teeth in the back of a child's mouth. Dentists say it's quick fix to prevent tooth decay.
The Springfield School District collaborates with the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, usually referred to as the Tooth Truck, and Jordan Valley Dental Clinic to ensure students receive the preventative and corrective dental care they need.
The Tooth Truck visits 26 district schools throughout the year to provide dental services to students on site. Tooth Truck staff also implemented a pilot tooth-brushing program at the district's Early Childhood Special Education Center to help establish proper preventive tooth care skills early.
For the first time, this year the district conducted dental screenings on every student in grades K-5, which totals 12,000 children receiving dental screenings. Based on the findings of those screenings, the district worked with the Greene County Dental Society to make referrals for those students needing dental services, including sealants.
If parents have a concern about their child's dental health and they do not have access to a dentist, they should contact the nurse at the school where there child attends for a referral.
To read the full report, visit http://www.pewstates.org/uploadedFiles/PCS_Assets/2013/Pew_dental_sealants_report.pdf