Smile BIG Richland!

Educating and improving the oral health of 0—18 year olds in Richland County.

     Through funding from the Richland County Foundation and donations from national and local organizations, our mission is to educate and prevent the prevalence of tooth decay in youth between the ages of 0 to 18.

     Did you know that dental disease is the most common chronic illness for children in the U.S.? About 20% of children between the ages of 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. While dental disease is preventable, dental care is the most common unmet health need of children.

In the United States, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. In Richland County, and the rest of the country, tooth decay often goes untreated. This is in part due to a lack of access to routine dental care and limited access to fluoridated water. 

When children do not see a dental healthcare provider or use fluoride regularly, their chances of experiencing tooth decay and dental health issues increases significantly. Tooth decay in childhood can have negative effects on the child’s overall oral health throughout their entire lifespan. Children who have cavities in their “baby teeth” are three times more likely to develop cavities in their adult (permanent) teeth. Along with the physical effects, kids with poor oral health are 3x more likely to miss school and 2x more likely to struggle academically. 

While treating dental health issues (like cavities) is important, preventing dental health issues for our youth is one of the best things we can do for them as a community, to ensure they grow up to have big, healthy, and strong smiles!

Keeping kids’ teeth healthy means more than just daily brushing! Did you know that fluoride plays an important role in healthy tooth development and cavity prevention? Water fluoridation has proven to be a safe and cost-effective way to reduce tooth decay in youth by 25%. Water fluoridation is regarded as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, that benefits all residents of communities, young and old, rich and poor, alike. Water fluoridation has resulted in a dramatic decline in tooth decay over the past 70 years across the United States. However, as of 2020, only 12.9% of Richland County’s population had fluoridated water at home. Youth who live in communities where water is fluoridated have on average 2.25 fewer decayed teeth compared to youth not living in fluoridated communities. The benefits of fluoride can still be achieved through the use of fluoride toothpaste and rinses. Here at Richland Public Health, we are making it a priority to provide free fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride treatments to youth who live in Richland County communities who may not have access to fluoridated water.

To find out if your water is fluoridated,  contact your community’s water provider (utility) to learn the fluoride content of your drinking water.

Fluoride Use for Children

Dental caries (cavities) continues to be the most chronic disease of childhood. Although dental caries is multifactorial in its etiology, fluoride is an important chemotherapeutic intervention to strengthen teeth and prevent disease progression. The safety of fluoride has been demonstrated in numerous research studies and community water fluoridation heralded as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Water Fluoridation

Did you know that fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies? Fluoride reduces decay by strengthening tooth enamel.

Adding fluoride to water is a safe way to prevent tooth decay. Water is “fluoridated” when a public water system adjusts the fluoride to a level known to prevent tooth decay.

If you would like to host Richland Public Health for a Smile BIG Richland! presentation at your organization, please contact us using the information below. Please provide the number of youth you serve, their age ranges, and days/times you would be interested in hosting RPH at your organization to pass out dental health backpacks. Your organization’s youth/parents will be provided with surveys to complete. The data will be used to help inform health programming in Richland County!

We are in need of donations for incentives, dental health products, etc.! If you are able to contribute, please let us know. We thank you in advance for helping us make Richland County youth’s smiles big, healthy, and strong!

Leslie DeShane, Health Educator


Phone: (419) 774-4726

Shannon Nelson, Coordinator


Phone: (419) 774-4761