Dental decay remains a problem for Utah, U.S. kids, study says

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8 2013 6:56 p.m. MST

Martin said a number of local programs work to provide the service to school kids, but much of it doesn't get reported, resulting in poor ratings nationally.

"We definitely have room for improvement," she said. "We could use more funding to provide more children with these preventive services."

In conjunction with sealants, the state program advocates for twice daily brushing — for at least two minutes each time — and regular flossing, as well as fluoride treatments at dental appointments. Proper dental care can prevent gingivitis, inflammation of the gums and plaque buildup, all of which can lead to major complications if left untreated.

Only five states earned an A grade from the Pew study, which was based on four indicators, including the sealant programs, hygienist regulations against placing sealants, data collection and meeting a national objective on sealants set by the federal government's Healthy People 2010 goals. Eight states earned a B grade, although half did not have sealant programs in place in most of their high-need schools, the report states.

Along with Utah, 16 other states earned a C grade, 15 made D's and five failed all indicators, lagging far behind the national average in prevention efforts for dental health.

"States that take dental prevention seriously are making a good faith effort to get sealants to more low-income children," said Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. "When states don't do enough, they and low-income children pay a higher price both in dollars and decay."

Although preventable, dental decay remains the most common chronic childhood disease, the report states. The full report can be found online, at www.pewstates.org.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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