Many CT children don’t get oral health care they need; Long-term care residents at risk
January 23, 2013 William Gerrish
Hartford – At an oral health awareness event at the Legislative Office Building today, the Department of Public Health presented recent oral health data indicating that many Connecticut residents are at risk for poor oral health.
Based on recent public health survey data, many children in Connecticut do not get the dental care they need, according to the state’s Dental Director, Linda Ferraro. “Dental decay continues to be a significant problem for Connecticut’s children,” Ferraro said. “Almost 60% of children in Connecticut do not have dental sealants, a well-accepted clinical intervention to prevent tooth decay in molar teeth, and by the third grade 40% of Connecticut children have experienced dental decay.”
Ferraro also noted the significant oral health disparities that exist among Connecticut children and adults, with minority and low-income children having the highest level of dental disease. Nearly half of adults living in households with annual incomes below $15,000 report not seeing a dentist in the previous year, a sharp contrast to adults in higher income households.
Untreated tooth decay is also a significant problem for many vulnerable adults in Connecticut, particularly those living in long-term care facilities. Over one-half of long-term care facility residents with teeth had untreated tooth decay, Ferraro said.
These findings are based on a recent Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone health survey conducted by the Department of Public Health each year, and Every Smile Counts 2011, a statewide oral health survey of over 9,000 preschool and elementary school children. Preliminary data was also obtained from an oral health survey of vulnerable older adults in Connecticut during 2012.
Ferraro said that some improvements in the provision of essential oral health services to children in Connecticut have been achieved. For example, programs such as the Home-By-One program and the Head Start Initiative are working to reduce tooth decay prevalence for young children. “While access to dental care has increased for children, we need to increase the awareness and value of the importance of oral health and how it relates to overall health for all ages,” she said.
For more information about the Oral Health Program and to view the Every Smile Counts 2011 oral health survey, please visit www.ct.gov/dph/oralhealth.