SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee endorsed a resolution encouraging efforts to improve the oral health of Utah's underserved population.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed the resolution on to the Senate floor.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said SCR3 urges oral health be addressed through the efforts of stakeholders: the government, health care professionals, community leaders and insurance companies.

"I learned that the No. 1 reason why kids miss school in the state of Utah is because of a toothache. You think about the United States of America, a first-world country, to believe that that’s taking place in our own backyard is scary," said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.

The resolution also recognizes the University of Utah School of Dentistry for its commitment to serve Utah's underserved and vulnerable populations with prevention and intervention dental care.

"I think it’s absolutely critical that we recognize this great jewel now that we have in our community," Jones said.

Rena D'Souza, dean of the dentistry school, said teachers train their students to graduate with compassion and a skill set to work effectively with underserved communities. She said they're committed to serving the needs of both the pediatric and adult population.

D'Souza explained a healthy mouth is a healthy body because poor oral health can affect all the systems in the body. She provided the example of connections between diabetes and periodontal disease.

"If any one of you has the chance to go out into rural health communities, you will see children with decay from molar to molar," D'Souza said. "These kids are typically in ORs, under anesthesia, having crowns put on every tooth, and that’s not what we need."