Dental 'check-up' for county just so-so

The Mirror

The news from the dentist’s office is mixed for King County.

On the positive side, the Seattle-King County Public Health Department reports, children here are less likely to have tooth decay than kids in other parts of Washington.

But “troubling” rates of preventable dental disease continue in King County, particularly the poor, officials said.

The information is part of the most recent statewide “Smile Survey” of children’s oral health by the state Department of Health.

Among the major local findings of the study are that nearly 60 percent of elementary school-age children outside of King County have cavities and/or fillings, while King County and Seattle rates were lower –– 47.1 percent and 49.5 percent, respectively. The 2005 rate of dental decay or fillings in King County children was about the same as in 2000, county health officials said.


•Preschool-age kids in King County have significantly lower rates of dental disease when compared to preschooler in other areas of the state: 45.1 percent of 3 to 5-year-olds in the rest of Washington, 26.6 percent in King County.

• More than 75 percent of the county population has access to fluoridated water, which likely contributes to children having healthier teeth with less decay, according to health authorities. Statewide, water system fluoridation is available to about half of the people.

The significance of dental health is major and far-reaching in virtually every aspect of children’s lives, said Dorothy Teeter, director of the county Health Department.

“Chronic dental disease can impact a child’s health and well-being, self-esteem and school performance,” Teeter said. “This is a preventable problem, but more children and their families need access to the tools that can improve their health.”

Strategies include community education about the importance of baby teeth, oral health screening by a child’s first birthday by a dentist or doctor, and training of primary care providers to include oral health risk assessments.

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