PALM BEACH GARDENS — Palm Beach County must do more to improve access to dental care, especially for low-income families, according to a report released today by the Florida Public Health Institute.
Among other recommendations, the seven-page report calls for more efforts to fluoridate public drinking water in communities such as Riviera Beach and Jupiter. Only about 62 percent of the county’s population has access to “optimally” fluoridated water, the report says.
“If we had only one thing to do, it would be fluoridation,” said Dr. Earl Fox, the institute’s executive director.
Fluoridated water is one of the easiest ways to prevent tooth decay because it doesn’t require residents to take any action, Fox said.
But it is also controversial.
Rim Bishop, executive director of the Seacoast Utility Authority, which serves about 47,000 homes in northern Palm Beach County, said his agency’s board has repeatedly opted against adding fluoride to its water.
“They don’t want to increase the number of chemicals that we feed into the water supply,” Bishop said.
The institute’s report also called for more school-based programs to educate children about the importance of care for teeth and gums.
County health department officials estimate that current education and prevention programs reach only about 3 percent of children, the report said.
Of the roughly 2,800 children screened by health officials for the study, about 40 percent of them were in need of oral health services.
The study also showed that 19 percent of second graders had dental disease that was either urgent or needed care soon.
Fox says his group has been working with officials in Tallahassee to expand Medicaid funding for oral health care services.
Oral health care – Findings of the report released Tuesday:
Of the roughly 2,800 children screened by county health officials, about 40 percent of them were in need of oral health services.
19 percent of second-graders had dental disease that was either urgent or needed care soon.
Only 62 percent of county residents have access to optimally fluoridated water.
Source: Florida Public Health Institute