Smile Survey 2010, Oral Health Disparities Evident

Smile Survey 2010, Oral Health Disparities Evident

Apr 19, 2011

SPOKANE, Wash. – April 18, 2011 – Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) announced today that results from the 2010 Smile Survey—Washington state and Spokane County data—are now available. Although a local increase in dental access has lowered untreated decay rates among children, decay among low income, minority, and non-English speaking children confirm that Spokane faces oral health disparities.

Coordinated by the Spokane Regional Health District’s Oral Health program, 2,012 children were screened—950 kindergarten students and 1,062 third graders. A dental hygienist, trained and standardized by Washington State Department of Health, screened the children using gloves, a disposable dental mirror and a penlight.   

Current untreated decay rates in Spokane, compared to 2005 results, fell from 14.7 percent to 8.8 percent for third graders, and from 11.4 percent to 7.3 percent for preschoolers. Improvements have been made over the years, but still among minorities, sealant rates were lower; and there were higher rates of decay experience, untreated decay, rampant decay and those needing treatment when compared to white, non-Hispanic children.

Children whose primary language is English had a 17.1 percent rate of rampant decay, while children whose primary language is not English had a rate of 41.6 percent. Compared by eligibility for free/reduced lunch, rampant decay rates among non-eligible children were 8.7 percent, while eligible was 28.4 percent. Rampant decay among racial and ethnic minorities was 22.5 percent, as compared to the white, non-Hispanic rate of 17.5 percent.

Said Ida Ovnicek, SRHD Oral Health program manager, “Through the years, dental access for Spokane’s children has increased. As local dentists provide more preventive and restorative services, untreated decay rates have continued to decline.”

“Spokane has met Healthy People 2010 and 2020 goals concerning the proportion of children with untreated decay and of those receiving protective dental sealants. Our challenge now becomes the proportion of children who have experienced dental decay. This is especially true considering race/ethnicity, language and income.”

Other findings included: 

Assessment Category/Age Group* Spokane 2005 (951) 2nd/3rd Graders Spokane 2010 (1062) 3rd graders WA State 2010 (2875) 3rd graders
Decay rate/experience 62.0% 57.2% 57.9%
Rampant decay (7 or more decay/fillings) 17.6% 21.0% 19.2%
% needing treatment   7.8% 15%
% needing urgent treatment 1.7% 1.2% 2.2%
% with sealants on permanent teeth 61.5% 60.1% 51.2%
  Spokane 2005 Preschool (176) Spokane 2010 Kindergarten (950) WA State 2010 Kindergarten (2858)
Decay rate/experience 35.2% 39.9% 39.3%
Rampant decay (7 or more decay/fillings) 11.9% 15.8% 14.5%
% needing treatment   7.1% 13%
% needing urgent treatment 0.6% 0.7% 1.4%
% with sealants on permanent teeth   5.7% 5.1%

*Please note changes in age groups of 2005 and 2010 Smile Surveys

“Although dental decay remains the most prevalent disease in children, it is preventable. Too often, oral health is still isolated from other health factors that affect a child, or adult,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD health officer.

“Although there may be different oral health needs and concerns across the life span, each person, regardless of age, could benefit from access to preventative oral health measures, including fluoridated water. Unfortunately, our state budget continues to underfund public health, which in turn dictates how effective we are in achieving oral health goals.”

The SRHD Oral Health program assists in reducing the likelihood of childhood tooth decay in two ways. In 1995, they initiated the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) program in Spokane, providing enrollment, education, and dental resources for Medicaid children, ages 0 through 5. Also, as part of ABCD, local dentists provide dental services for eligible children including exams, fluoride varnish, education and restorative care.

The ABCD “E” (Expanded) program works with medical providers to offer education, dental referrals and fluoride varnish applications for children during medical office visits, a prime forum for discussing the impact of oral health on a child’s overall health.

  • To read the full Smile Survey 2010 report, please click here.

To read more about Spokane’s oral health, please click here. Information can also be found at SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community.