HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Dental officials say poor oral health can lead to low self-esteem and sometimes even death.
But the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Unit was in Hazard today providing free preventive dental care to an estimated 150 children from Perry, Knott, Letcher, and Leslie Counties.
Regina Padilla's son, Christian, has three cavities. But thanks to the UK Dental Outreach Team and the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile Program, his teeth were cleaned and an appointment was set up for the cavities to be filled.
"It means the world to me. My kids are my life. Anyone willing to help get them the help they need, it means everything to me," said Padilla.
Dental officials say even though Christian just has baby teeth, getting dental care is critical.
"If a child has a lot of tooth decay in their baby teeth, then their six year molar, before it even erupts, will have cavities," said Dr. Nikki Stone, a dentist and the Dental Director for UK North Fork Valley Community Health Center.
Dr. Stone says a child with poor dental health once said something to her that shows why dental health is so important.
"He said 'The kids in my neighborhood call me snaggletooth' and he said 'Can you please take away the brown and make it white before I start school?'," Dr. Stone said.
Dental officials say Southeastern Kentucky has the second highest untreated tooth decay rate among children in the country. They say there are multiple reasons for this problem.
"Bacteria and sugar. Sugar is a big issue here because we drink more soda pop than anywhere else in the nation," said Dr. Stone.
Dr. Stone says 30 percent of children in Knott, Perry, Leslie and Letcher Counties do not have access to dental insurance.
She says you need to have your children visit the dentist regularly, avoid having your kids drink soda or other sugary drinks, and have them brush and floss daily.