According to the Mississippi Department of Health, 1 in 3 children in the state have decayed teeth, and 1 in 10 have an urgent need for dental care from pain and infection. As MPB's Maura Moed reports, bad teeth could lead to bad health.
Nearly 1,200 elementary students from Jackson Public Schools received free dental exams from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Services included cleanings, and instructions on proper brushing and flossing.
William Duncan with UMMC's School of Dentistry says educating the students is a way to improve Mississippi's oral health status. He says regular dental check ups are critical for both children and adults.
"They're starting to relate decayed teeth to heart issues in adults. There are all sorts of implications when infections get into your blood stream, which is what happens with a tooth. If it gets infected long enough, you wind up with the germs getting into the blood stream which can cause a multitude of other problems," says Duncan.
However, Duncan says adequate access to dental care is hard to come by for some Mississippi children.
Democrat State Senator Hillman Frazier of Jackson supports medicaid expansion - which is what he thinks is hindering some children from receiving the care they need.
"Some don't have access to quality care period. In this state, we could expand medicaid to provide additional services to those who need it the most. A lot of the parents are not used to providing dental care or even getting treatment themselves," says Frazier.
In 2006, the State Department of Health found that 3 out of 4 children have experienced dental disease by age 8.