Keeping kids’ smiles healthy |

Keeping kids’ smiles healthy

EDWARDS ” The numbers might surprise some Eagle County residents.

Forty-eight percent of local households have trouble getting dental care. Fifty-four percent of third-graders have had cavities. About a quarter of third-graders have untreated tooth decay.

“They’re in pain, and they’re in need,” said Bethany Van Wyk, public health nurse for Eagle County.

Kids’ need for dental care is a problem that often goes under the radar in Eagle County, Van Wyk said.

The University of Colorado’s School of Dentistry will be visiting the county throughout the summer to care for children ages 5 and older.

Beginning Monday, the school will set up shop at the county annex in Edwards to give free screenings for uninsured children as well as children covered by Medicare or Child Health Plan Plus.

If the dentists find problems, families can set up appointments for later in the summer, when CU’s mobile dental van will visit Eagle County. The van will be here for several weeks throughout the summer.

The van will offer many kinds of free services, including cleanings, fillings, sealants and root canals, Van Wyk said.

Many families lack insurance, Van Wyk said. Others do have insurance, but the visits are still too expensive, she said.

Few dentists in the valley accept Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus.

Dental problems can be a gateway for other diseases , Van Wyk said. The problems can also lead to poor nutrition or trouble learning in school, she said.

“We’ve heard anecdotally from school nurses and other agencies that a lot of children have a lot of pain,” Van Wyk said.

The problem is worse among Hispanics, she said.

One study of families of local elementary students in two schools found that 22 percent of Hispanic children had never visited a dentist in their lives, Van Wyk said.

In Eagle County, 26 percent of the population is Hispanic.

Eagle County Smiles, a local coalition of nonprofits, government workers and dentists, is helping coordinate the free screenings and treatments this summer.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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