According to a report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), 66% of children between the ages of 6 and 9 years in the state experienced tooth decay in 2015. The report collected information on various factors including access to dental care, tooth decay, urgent treatment needs, and sealant placement.
“Unfortunately, this rate has increased significantly since the 2010 survey (52%) and surpasses the Healthy People 2020 objective of 49%,” said State Dental Director Kim Michelson, DDS, who added that 19% of these children have untreated tooth decay and 1.5% need urgent dental care. “This means these children were experiencing tooth pain or infection.”
The survey also reported that nearly one in 6 children in Utah lack dental insurance coverage, with one in 25 children experiencing an issue during the previous 12 months that required dental care that their parents were unable to afford. Also, about 66% of parents said their child had been to the dentist in the previous 6 months, but a little more than 2% of children had never been to a dentist.
However, the UDOH does report a significant increase in children with sealants present on at least one permanent molar. In 2015, 45% of children had sealants present, compared to 26% in 2010—an important development, the UDOH notes, as tooth decay is still the most common chronic childhood disease even though it is preventable.
“We know oral health diseases are largely preventable yet we are moving in the wrong direction,” said Shaheen Hossain, PhD, the primary author of the report. “Along with increasing the access to needed services, we still need to educate parents on the importance of oral hygiene, nutritious diets with fewer sugary beverages, and getting routine dental care.”
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