MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- Brush your teeth every day and see the dentist every six months: That's what many of us were taught from a young age. But in Sullivan County, officials say many kids aren't getting that message.

“All children deserves health and happy smiles,” said Dr. Ceci Escarra of PRASAD Children’s Dental Health Program.

The Sullivan County Public Health Department says recent testing showed third graders in the county have a much higher rate of untreated cavities than other counties in the region. The study focused on that age in particular because that's when adult teeth begin to come in.

“Many are not aware of the serious side effects of bottle rot and early tooth decay,” said Sullivan County Women, Infants and Children Program Coordinator Amanda Langseder.

Officials say part of the problem is that children are not getting into early care and treatment. They also believe poverty and access to medical care play roles.

“According to the CDC, approximately one in four children under the age of nine living in poverty has untreated dental caries,” Langseder said.

In response to these new statistics, Sullivan County formed an oral health coalition as a way to combat this new problem.

“One of the things that we will be doing as a health department with our oral health coalition and our rural health network is to conduct some more in-depth comprehensive needs assessments,” said Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw.

The county plans to hold more screenings and clinics for children. It will also continue to work with non-profit PRASAD to inform children and adults on the importance of dental hygiene.

“Tooth decay is totally preventable, and that’s why we are here, to continue working as a community to make sure that more children, all children have access to proper dental care,” Escarra said.