Untreated Tooth Decay Still a Problem for Many Utah Children

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Nearly two-thirds (66%) of Utah children between the ages of 6 and 9 experienced tooth decay in 2015, according to a new study conducted by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). The survey collected information on various factors including access to dental care, tooth decay, urgent treatment needs, and sealant placement.

State Dental Director Dr. Kim Michelson says, “Unfortunately, this rate has increased significantly since the 2010 survey (52%) and surpasses the Healthy People 2020 objective of 49%.” Findings also indicate that nearly one-fifth of Utah children (19%) have untreated tooth decay and a few (1.5%) need urgent dental care. Dr. Michelson adds, “This means these children were experiencing tooth pain or infection.”

Unfortunately, poverty and lack of dental insurance have long been shown to affect oral health status. Nearly one in six children in Utah lack dental insurance coverage. Survey results also indicate that one in 25 children experienced an issue during the previous 12 months that required dental care but their parents couldn’t afford the treatment. About 66% of parents said their child had been to the dentist in the last 6 months, but a little more than 2% had never been to a dentist.

One bit of good news is a significant increase in children having sealants present on at least one permanent molar tooth. In 2015, nearly half (45%) of the children had sealants present compared with 26% in 2010.

Although dental decay is preventable, it remains the most common chronic childhood disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among children between the ages of 5 and 19.

“We know oral health diseases are largely preventable yet we are moving in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Shaheen Hossain, 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.”

The UDOH Oral Health Program (OHP) promotes dental decay prevention methods such as dental visits, sealants, fluoride, and other methods including early intervention education. For more information or a copy of the complete report, contact the OHP at 801-273-2995 or visit http://health.utah.gov/oralhealth/resources.php.


Media Contact:
Anne McKenzie
Oral Health Program
(o) 801-273-2995