If you live in Arkansas and are 65 or older, there is close to a one in three chance that you have lost all your natural teeth. Thirty percent of Arkansans in this age group have no teeth, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2002 survey.
In one study on oral health, Arkansas got a C-. The Oral Health America report, published in April 2003, found that while Arkansas improved its overall grade from the previous year, residents of the state--like much of the nation--were having difficulty finding dentists, affording dental insurance, reducing the use of tobacco and providing dental sealants programs for children.
Arkansas Senator Brenda Gullet, a long-time proponent of public health issues, was aware of her state's oral health needs, but it was not until she heard a fellow legislator speak at an NCSL meeting when she became "enlightened" about the profound connection between childhood oral health and chronic diseases.
Raymond Rawson, a Nevada senator and dentist, presented information on the "lifetime of illness children can acquire because of poor oral health."
Fellow Arkansas legislator, …