Hartford - The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) today released findings of the 2006-2007 oral health survey of children in Connecticut. While the dental caries (decay) rate is high (34%), Connecticut children were found to have less decay experience than other states.

DPH conducted an open-mouth basic screening survey of Head Start, kindergarten and third grade children in the state during the 2006-2007 school year. The survey, called Every Smile Counts, used a nationally standardized survey tool that allowed the department to compare Connecticut’s oral health status with other states. Of the 31 states that conducted similar surveys, Connecticut’s results showed children were less likely to experience decay here than in other states. "We have the lowest decay rate in the country followed by Vermont, Maryland and Maine," said DPH Commissioner, J. Robert Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.

"That’s where the good news ends," said Dr. Ardell A. Wilson, Director of the State Office of Oral Health. "We surveyed preschool children age 2 to 5 years old and found that one out of every third child had decay experience (a filling and/or untreated decay)," she stated. "One in five preschool children had untreated decay."

By age eight and nine, 35% of white children, 50% of African American and Asian children and 63% of Hispanic children have experienced dental decay. Rampant decay (five or more teeth with decay experience) was found in one out of every ten white children and one out of every five Hispanic, African American and Asian third graders in Connecticut. Poor children were three times more likely to have rampant decay as non-poor children. "The bottom line is, no matter what your race or economic status, you are at risk of dental disease," stated Dr. Galvin.

Dental caries (decay) is an infectious disease. It can lead to pain, tooth loss, abscess, and septicemia. It can spread more rapidly in some children than others. "Transmission of the bacteria that causes decay, often occurs in infancy so the key is prevention from the time teeth erupt into the mouth," said Dr. Wilson.

Children should see a dental provider by age one. An assessment for risk of decay can be made and a preventive regime started, such as good oral hygiene techniques, good diet, fluoride in drinking water and fluoride varnish application. As children grow older, dental sealants (plastic coating on the tops of molar (back) teeth) are essential to add to the preventive regime as well as routine dental visits as recommended by their dental provider.

Connecticut is one of 23 states nationally with a state oral health plan, and is part of a coalition, made up of a diverse group of agencies and organizations, that is working together to implement the plan and improve the oral health status for all Connecticut residents.

For more information, visit the Department of Public Health, Office of Oral Health website at http://www.dph.state.ct.us/bch/oralhealth.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state. To contact the department, please visit its website at www.dph.state.ct.us or call (860) 509-7270.