Special Reports

Dental hygiene tied to poverty for Malheur County children

Brayden Gregory, 15, gets his teeth cleaned by Christi Phillips, a registered dental hygienist, and dentist Dr. Jacob Atkinson at Atkinson Dental in Vale. Gregory, who plays on the Vale High School football team, will be a sophomore this fall. (The Enterprise/Carolyn Agrimis)

VALE – As kids across Malheur County count down their final days of summer and begin to fill their bags with school supplies, some of them might be showing up to school lacking one item: a healthy smile.

On any given day, 3,800 first through third graders across the state are suffering from dental pain or an infection, according to the 2012 Oregon Smile Survey produced by the Oregon Health Authority.

In eastern, more rural areas of Oregon, a staggering 73 percent of children that age experience tooth decay.

Dental issues like tooth decay, if . . .