Even With More Access to Care, Children Still Face Pressing Oral Health Needs

dd-kya-book-coverKentucky Youth Advocates is excited to co-release a new study today in partnership with Delta Dental of Kentucky. The report Making Smiles Happen: 2016 Oral Health Study of Kentucky’s Youth presents findings of the first oral health surveillance study of Kentucky children in 15 years. The report was released today at the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare in Frankfort, Kentucky.

We extend gratitude and appreciation to Delta Dental of Kentucky for being the investor and major partner in this important study for children through their charitable initiative, Making Smiles Happen®.

To carry out the study, a dentist from the University of Louisville visited 60 schools across five regions of the state to observe the mouths of 3rd and 6th graders. The study also asked parents about family oral health history, resulting in the collection of data for over 2,000 students.

The report released today highlights the following findings from the oral health study:

  1. More 3rd and 6th graders are in need of early or urgent dental care since 2001, though more parents report their children having dental insurance and access to a dentist.
  2. Two out of five 3rd and 6th graders have untreated cavities.
  3. Despite a 14 percent increase in the number of 3rd and 6th graders with a dental sealant on a permanent molar between 2001 and 2016, more than half of 3rd and 6th graders did not have at least one dental sealant on a permanent molar during the 2015­16 school year.
  4. The 3rd and 6th graders eligible for free or reduced lunch (more than half of students in the study) were more likely to have recently experienced a toothache, have visited a dentist more than a year ago, have untreated decay, or to be in need of urgent dental care.

The report notes differences in the findings by region, race, and socioeconomic status. Where comparable, the report also mentions differences in the findings from the 2001 oral health study conducted by the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the University of Kentucky.

In addition to the findings of the study, the report includes several recommendations that can help move the needle on the oral health for Kentucky children, including:

  • Develop goals and objectives for a comprehensive, statewide oral health plan.
  • Launch regional networks to develop local, data driven oral health solutions.
  • Establish school-based sealant programs in all high needs schools.
  • Promote oral health literacy campaigns.
  • Regularly collect state and county-level oral health data.

We know that what gets measured gets changed. This study provides an overdue picture of children’s oral health in Kentucky that can be used by leaders in our state to create positive oral health change. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Delta Dental of Kentucky to make an impact on oral health across the state. Today’s report is an important first step toward lasting change.

The complete report, including information about how you can be involved, can be found at KentuckyOralHealth.com.


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