The following post was originally written by Chrissy Chatham as an op-ed for Talk Business & Politics and published February 13, 2021. The original article can be found here. 

if we’re sick or in pain, it can be difficult to focus on or complete work-related tasks. Fortunately, as adults, we have the awareness to alert others and treat the underlying issue.

Children aren’t always as lucky. When experiencing a toothache or mouth sensitivity, they may not be able to express what’s causing them anguish. What’s worse, if left untreated, these oral health issues can significantly harm their long-term health and success.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cavities are one of the nation’s primary chronic childhood diseases, with profound impacts on eating, speaking, playing and learning. The National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center notes kids with poor oral health are more likely to have academic issues than those without.

When treated, however, these children’s learning-related issues often resolve or improve.

The importance of proper oral care is spotlighted each February for National Children’s Dental Health Month, but it should remain a priority year-round.

At the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, we are committed to improving the oral health of all Arkansans, including children. To date, we have contributed more than $25 million to state organizations for education, prevention and treatment programs.

Take our partnership with Excel by Eight (E8) as an example. Last year, with a grant from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, E8 teamed up with Curricula Concepts to launch its Healthy Smiles project in Conway and Independence counties.

Along with local steering committees, E8 and Curricula Concepts are engaging community members, child care providers, home visiting programs, dentists and other key stakeholders. The goal: to increase the number of low-income children in these E8 Communities receiving preventive dental services.

The grant to E8 is one of many the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation is providing to help our state meet key metrics of Healthy People 2020: Arkansas’ Chronic Disease Framework for Action. Specifically, we are focused on increasing the proportion of children and adolescents in low-income households who receive preventive dental care, such as regular dentist visits, sealants and fluoride varnish.

As our foundation has witnessed firsthand, proper oral health is essential to children achieving their full potential. Whether it’s subscribing to The Chatter, Delta Dental of Arkansas’ newsletter, for oral health tips or scheduling your child’s next teeth cleaning, we hope you will build upon our efforts to take bites out of dental decay and gum disease in our state.

Editor’s note: Chrissy Chatham is the executive director of the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation and a member of the Excel by Eight Foundation’s Collaborative.