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Published January 17, 2013, 11:30 PM

North Dakota gets ‘A’ for pediatric dental care, study finds

FARGO – North Dakota and Minnesota are two of the best states for pediatric dental care, according to a new report from Pew Center on the States.

By: By Paul Flessland, pflessland@forumcomm.com, INFORUM

FARGO – North Dakota and Minnesota are two of the best states for pediatric dental care, according to a new report from Pew Center on the States.

The report focuses on the availability of dental sealants for children throughout the United States. Dental sealants are a plastic coating applied to the chewing surfaces of molars that can prevent tooth decay by up to 60 percent. They are usually applied on children in the second or third grade, once their permanent teeth come in.

There has been some concern that dental sealants may cause problems, but Bill Maas, a public health dentist and adviser to the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, said that is not the case.

Sealants cut off food supply to bacteria, even if the tooth had some decay before the sealant was placed, he said. In the unlikely case that a sealant falls off, the tooth is no worse off than it was before the sealant.

North Dakota was one of five states to score an A in the study, while Minnesota followed with seven other states scoring a B. Both states scored well above the national average of C and D.

Dental sealants cost one-third the expense of filling a cavity, which can be particularly beneficial for low-income families, the study found.

Most states have unnecessary restrictions in place that prevent hygienists from applying sealants in schools, Maas said.

For instance, many states require children to be examined by a dentist before having sealants applied. North Dakota does not have any of these restrictions; Minnesota has some.

Pew’s based its grades on four criteria:

• Having sealant pro-grams in high-need schools.

• Allowing hygienists to place sealants in school-based programs without requiring a dentist’s exam.

• Collecting and submitting data regularly about the dental health of school-children.

• Meeting a national health objective on seal-ants.

Pew also reports that children’s health isn’t the only problem caused by lack of sealants.

“States that miss this opportunity to prevent decay are saddling taxpayers with higher costs down the road through Medicaid or other programs,” Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, said in a statement.

It is “certainly important to celebrate North Dakota’s strong public health leadership.” Maas said. However, he added, there is room to improve. There still are children who could benefit from dental sealant programs.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Paul Flessland at (701) 241-5502

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