A new report from the University of South Carolina's Arnold School Public Health and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control finds the percentage of kindergarteners and third-graders who need emergency dental care is only a fraction of what it was 11 years ago.
DHEC Director Catherine Templeton says, “It can go on to very serious illnesses. That's where we've really plugged in and that's where the numbers for this report show that we've gone from 10% to 1%.”
Templeton says a screening of over 6,000 kids from across the state also found the number of children requiring less-urgent dental care – within several weeks -- has dropped from 21% to 10% in the same time period.
Templeton credits the work South Carolina has done over the past decade to educate parents on the need for regular checkups before problems develop.
And she says many dentists have taken it upon themselves to go into rural communities – like Dr. Rocky Napier, who serves rural patients around Aiken County.
Napier says the state needs to continue getting the word out to parents about the importance of regular dental checkups.
“To achieve behavioral change – permanent behavioral change – we need to extend our work for at least another decade, I would think. Otherwise, we're going to revert back to where we were in years gone by,” Napier says.