Dental care goes beyond teeth — it is critical to overall health. The Berkshires and state must do better, beginning with children.

In an April 6 letter to the editor, Drs. Steven and Louis Yarmosky and Lauren Bullinger of Yarmosky Pediatric Dentistry of Pittsfield and Great Barrington made the case for parents establishing a dental home for their children at the age of one. Citing an April 2 Eagle article on a dental care seminar for southern Vermont pediatricians and primary care doctors, the writers observed that when a child's teeth hurt it affects eating, sleeping and ability to learn.

In an April 6 report on dental care, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission drew attention to a related issue, the high rate of dental care provided by emergency rooms. The report indicates that this could be partially attributed to gaps in MassHealth coverage, resulting in only 35 percent of dentists in 2014 treating a MassHealth patient. Emergency department treatment of a dental problem is four to seven times more costly than a dental office visit nationally, according to the report, which found that the Berkshires had the second highest rate of emergency visits for preventable dental conditions of any region in the state.

Parents must work with a medical professional to establish dental care for their children. Overall, the state must make it easier to get dental care, sparing people misery and saving the state money.