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Hawaii Needs More to Fight Cavities

Hawaii needs to continue emphasizing proper and diligent oral hygiene, fluoride treatment, and dental visits to reduce the prevalence of cavities plaguing Hawaii’s keiki.

According to the State Health Department’s oral health report in 2016, 71 percent of third-grade children suffer from dental cavities. This figure is higher than the 52 percent national average and the highest in the United States.

Despite the alarming number of tooth decay cases, the state remains adamant about water fluoridation. Only 11 percent of water is fluoridated, which makes Hawaii the least-fluoridated state in the country. With this low fluoridation percentage, less than 160,000 residents out of the over 1,419,000 people enjoy the advantages of fluoridated water.

In an interview with Living808, Dr. Karen Sheppard of Hawaii Family Dental emphasizes the need to diligently practice proper oral care, starting with the basics of brushing and flossing every day. She also stresses the importance of dental visits and getting fluoride treatment.

“You need to brush every day and floss every day. You ought to see your dentist twice a year. On top of that, we need to make sure they get their fluoride because fluoride is not in the water in the state of Hawaii,” Dr. Sheppard says.

The American Dental Association recommends people visit the dentist at least twice a year for preventive care. Biannual dental visits include teeth cleaning and fluoride treatment. Through a dental visit, your dentist can check and address oral health problems as soon as possible.

However, 22 percent of American adults forgo dental care due to fear. According to Dr. Sheppard, fear may stem from traumatic childhood memories in the dental office. Although, the anxiety may also come from hearing people’s bad experiences with dentists.

“What happens is you come into the office, and you may have heard sounds that you remember. It immediately brings back memories,” Dr. Sheppard adds. Fortunately, Hawaii Family Dental has ways to help patients relax and soothe their anxiety for a more comfortable dental visit.

Lawmaker Pushes for Fluoridated Water

A Hawaii lawmaker pushes for the fluoridation of the state’s water systems to promote better oral health for the people.

Democratic state senator Karl Rhoads has sponsored legislation that will require significant public water suppliers in Hawaii to fluoridate the state’s drinking water as a response to the weakening dental health of the children.

In his interview with KITV-TV, the senator lamented the increasing number of children who suffer from dental issues such as tooth decay. He also pointed out the low rank of Hawaii in terms of children’s dental health.

Hawaii records the highest tooth decay prevalence in the United States. It also received an F rating from The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2011, making it the country’s worst-performing state.

Rhoads lobbies that the fluoridation of the state’s drinking water will reduce cavities. “Fluoridation is a system that is used all over the country and the world that reduces cavities if you drink water that is fluoridated,” he said.

In Hawaii, cavities plague 71 percent of third-graders, higher by 19 percent than the national average. Moreover, 22 percent of third-graders do not get the needed oral care and suffer from untreated dental caries. Seven percent of these children need urgent dental care due to infection and pain.

Fluoridating the water system will be safe and cost-effective to address the issue, according to Rhoads. “In a big system like Honolulu’s, you can save up to 32 USD in reduced dental costs for every dollar you spend fluoridating,” he added.

Fluoridating Hawaii’s Community Waters

Health agencies, including the American Dental Association, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, endorse the use of fluoride to protect the teeth and combat tooth decay. The naturally-occurring compound aids in the remineralization of the enamel. It strengthens it against wear caused by acid attacks and daily exposure to food and drink.

Despite the benefits of fluoridated water, Hawaii resisted the system. It is the state with the lowest percentage of fluoridated community water at only 11 percent. Aside from the military properties, no single county fluoridates its drinking water. Therefore, less than 160,000 residents, out of 1.4 million people, receive fluoridated water.

If passed, the legislation will require the Hawaii Department of Health will reimburse water suppliers for the initial expenses incurred. It will also offer them technical training and assistance. The state’s health department will also submit a report to the state legislature on implementing the water fluoridation system.

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