Twenty years ago, I took my first job in the public health field in San Diego, where I worked my way through graduate school as a dental health educator. The name of the program wasn’t fancy; it was called the Dental Disease Prevention Program. And it guaranteed that the kids in San Diego’s poorest schools had access to basic oral health tools. At that time, San Diego’s water supply wasn’t fluoridated and dental decay rates among school-age children were high.
Now, two decades later, I am the executive director of First 5 Yolo Children and Families Commission. The commission’s goal is to improve the well-being of children ages 0-5 and their families. First 5 Yolo provides more than $225,000 per year to CommuniCare Health Centers to fix children’s teeth. That $225,000 buys a lot of fillings, extractions and baby root canals. In essence, we fund a Dental Disease Treatment Program. And yes, there is much need for treatment, right here in Davis.
But treatment isn’t the commission’s goal … prevention is! In 2009, First 5 Yolo made a modest contribution toward water fluoridation in West Sacramento. Now that fluoridation began in 2009, rates of dental disease among low-income preschoolers and kindergartners have decreased by 10 percent.
With the new Woodland/Davis water system being built, members of the Davis City Council find themselves with the perfect opportunity to do right for the children of Davis. Fluoridating Davis’ water will have a lasting impact on our children’s health and academic achievement. Nationally, an estimated 51 million school hours per year are lost because of dental-related illness. Obviously, it is difficult for a child to learn when he is in pain. Children with healthy teeth are able to attend school and pay attention to what is taught.
And, I’m happy to say, in 2011, the city of San Diego voted to fluoridate its water supply, adding that city to a growing list of more than 270 cities in California that are currently fluoridated.
Executive director, First 5 Yolo, Davis