As a retired pediatric public health nurse and nursing professor, I spent my whole career witnessing how important good oral health is for a healthy childhood. It is heartbreaking to see children suffering from pain and abscesses that could have been avoided with prevention and early intervention. Our family benefitted from having employer-sponsored dental insurance and flexible paid time off and a dental office close to where we lived, but sadly, this is actually the exception rather than the rule in Maine.

Depending on genetics, nutrition and exposure to the bacteria that cause dental disease, brushing and flossing are often not enough to prevent cavities. Simple preventive services, such as fluoride varnish and sealants, are very effective in preventing cavities, but can only be applied by a licensed professional; you cannot do them yourself.

However, there are not enough dentists and hygienists to serve all of Maine’s children, and most dental offices take only private insurance, which only about one-quarter of Maine kids have. Across the state, most offices that take MaineCare have long wait times for new patient appointments.

Thankfully, there is a solution at hand in “LD 1501: An Act to Protect Oral Health for Children in Maine,” which would expand Maine’s School Oral Health Program to serve all schools. Now is the time for our legislators to ensure that this important measure gets funded in the budget so that all our children have access to the basic essential prevention that they need for a healthy childhood.

Anne Keith, RNNew Gloucester

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