Tooth decay persists for many King County children
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
2010 Smile Survey gives local update on kids' oral health
KING COUNTY, WA -- Troubling rates of preventable dental disease continue in King County children, particularly among those from low-income families, children of color and children whose primary language is not English, according to the most recent King County Smile Survey. This 2010 report updates local knowledge about the oral health needs of children in King County and helps identify where more prevention activities are needed.
Major local findings of the study include:
- Children from low-income families are more than twice as likely to have untreated dental disease (23%) and four times as likely to have rampant tooth decay (23%).
- Children of color and children whose primary language is not English are almost twice as likely to have untreated dental disease (20%, 23%).
- Compared to other areas of the state, King County children are more likely to have no tooth decay and fewer fillings. In King County, 60% of elementary school children have no decay compared to 51% of children statewide.
- Eighty percent of King County residents have access to fluoridated water, which likely contributes to children having healthier teeth and less decay than in other parts of the state.
"Healthy teeth are an important part of kids' overall health," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health -- Seattle & King County. "We need to make sure every child in King County has access to preventive dental care."
In the 2010 King County Smile Survey, 4,000 kindergarten and third-grade students and 382 preschool children were surveyed. The King County survey was produced by Public Health -- Seattle & King County in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health's Smile Survey, which included 5,733 kindergarten and third grade students across the state.
Local prevention efforts
King County, through the Kids Get Care and Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) programs, has focused efforts on preventing early childhood cavities in children from birth to age five, particularly in low--income children and communities of color. Strategies include community education about the importance of baby teeth, first oral health screening by first birthday by a dentist or doctor, and training of primary care providers to include oral health risk assessments, fluoride varnish, oral health education, and dental referrals during well-child checks.
In addition to fluoridation, dental sealants are a proven strategy for reducing dental decay. Dental sealants are protective coatings applied to the grooves and pits of permanent molars, areas that are the most vulnerable to decay.
Overall, the use of dental sealants remains high in King County elementary school children, due in part to school-based dental sealant programs that specifically target schools with children at higher risk for dental disease. In fact, children are significantly more likely to have dental sealants if they attend a school with a school-based sealant program. Unfortunately, these programs have been cut back as a result of ongoing budget crises. Currently, 28 Seattle elementary schools and 3 Highline District elementary schools have school-based dental sealants programs provided by Public Health -- Seattle & King County, down from 58 schools across King County in 2005.
For a summary of the King County findings, and to get more information about the Oral Health Program and services provided by Public Health -- Seattle & King County, visit www.kingcounty.gov/health/oralhealth. For more information on Kids Get Care and the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) program, visit www.kingcounty.gov/health/kgc. To read more about the Statewide 2010 Smile Survey results, visit www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/Oral_Health.
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.9 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health - Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.