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Nov-20-2007 10:29printcomments

Report Shows Widespread Tooth Decay in Oregon Kids

Children without dental insurance and lower-income children have poorer oral health and less access to care.

doctor and child
Photo courtesy: Columbia University

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Every day 5,000 Oregon school children -- the equivalent of one child in every classroom throughout the state -- are in need of urgent care due to pain and infection from tooth decay. For many, their suffering will only worsen because they don't have regular access to a dentist.

The Oregon Smile Survey 2007, released last week by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), contains the results of oral screenings conducted among first, second and third graders. It follows a similar study conducted five years ago.

"This new report shows that, by every measure, oral health among Oregon's children has deteriorated," said Gordon Empey, D.M.D., M.P.H., dental health consultant in the DHS Public Health Division. "Since the 2002 survey, the proportion of school children with untreated decay has increased by 49 percent."

Survey findings include:

  • More than one in three children needed dental treatment the day they were screened.
  • Nearly two of every three children surveyed already had experienced tooth decay and, of those, half had untreated decay.
  • An estimated 27 percent of Oregon's children had not seen a dentist in the previous year.
  • Fewer than half of Oregon's third-graders have sealants -- a simple, safe, effective and low-cost method for preventing tooth decay.

Disparities also exist among Oregon's children. Those living outside the Portland metropolitan area suffer from poorer oral health; children without dental insurance and lower-income children have poorer oral health and less access to care.

One aspect of children's oral health has improved since the previous survey -- racial and ethnic disparities are easing somewhat. However, that is partly because the oral health of all Oregon children has worsened, the report says.


"Poor oral health can affect many aspects of a child's life -- self-esteem, school success, nutrition and general health," Empey said. "Increasing evidence shows oral health problems can increase the risk of serious medical problems for the rest of a person's life. Meanwhile, the reality is that cavities are 100 percent preventable."

Empey added that there is no single solution to improving the oral health of Oregon's children.

"The oral health system is broken," he said. "Fixing it will require mutual efforts that involve individuals, health care providers and the community." The report lays out five strategies that focus on public-private partnerships, and cites four community-based measures as effective in reducing tooth decay -- community water fluoridation, early-childhood cavity prevention programs, school-based fluoride supplement programs and school-based dental sealant programs.

Anyone wanting the full report can obtain a copy by calling 971-673-0252 or e-mailing a request to It is also available on the DHS Web site:

Oral health is one of many public health programs within DHS that focus on prevention and helping people manage their health so they can be as productive and healthy as possible.
Source: State of Oregon

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andy March 25, 2012 7:20 am (Pacific time)

Continuing with the discussion for good dental hygiene, it is important for the parents to know how they can prevent tooth decay in children.

Neal Feldman November 22, 2007 12:17 pm (Pacific time)

vic - Not all illegals are brown. And just because there are other factors as well does not change the fact that the drain caused by 20-30 million illegals on both public funds as well as driving down wages of remaining jobs is not having a significant effect. The illegals may not be the sole cause of all ills but they are far from innocent of any harm causing either. Ah well...

Vic November 22, 2007 8:43 am (Pacific time)

I see....blame the illegals. So why didnt we have health care 30 years ago? Illegals ? It is the illegals fault that our country is the only industrialized nation without health care ? Id blame the insurance and health care lobbyists who want to keep the status quo. But hey, it is easier to blame poor brown people for our governments callous disregard for it's people. Amazing! I suppose the war is their fault too...And "wanna bet" that our stste wouldnt do anything even if it had the money. It is will , not funds. We are are spending 5 billion a week that we are borrowing to steal oil....I suppose those damn illegals are responsible for that too. Simple minds strive for simple answers , I guess....BLAME THE ILLEGALS !

unknown November 22, 2007 3:19 am (Pacific time)

Ok now, lets raise taxes so our children can have dental care. How about alcohol tax? (Just kidding). Is there anything what is not broken in this State? Get rid of the Illegals and I tell you the State will have enough money to get every American and Legal child to the dentist. Wanna bet?

Vic November 21, 2007 8:38 am (Pacific time)

Well ,any other industrialized country in the world would have free preventative health care and checkups, but we have other things to spend our money on...weapons and war, death and destruction. And Qmadp, you sound pretty you know what it is like to have to choose between taking your kid in for a dental exam or paying your electric bill? ( I do ) I have been self employed for 21 years and always saw to it that my kids had good care, but it was tough, and once even had to borrow money for that reason. Not everyone is of the white wine and Volvo class.

Sue November 20, 2007 3:43 pm (Pacific time)

Now that I have calmed down, I agree, quit poisoning our water.

Sue November 20, 2007 3:42 pm (Pacific time)

NEGLECTFUL PARENTS!! Come on! Good parents have kids with cavities! Why not have free check-ups and cleaning for all children? Because people are too cheap for universal health and dental care. There are good parents out there that have situations beyond their control that prevents them from being able to pay for dental care. Brushing your teeth is only part of oral health. My children were lucky that we had decent jobs and health insurance, but one of them still got cavities. Neglectful parents? Everyone has such a simple answer, blame someone.

Q Madp November 20, 2007 1:56 pm (Pacific time)

Fluoride and poisoning our water isn't going to solve the problems of neglectful parents. My last toothbrush cost me 89 cents and I'm sure the state in bulk could get them for around 30 cents and give them to the parents that truly can't afford it. Parents that don't waste money on lottery tickets or beer. The state wants to implement a system of dumping drugs and other things into your water, at your expense and at their will. It must be Tuesday.

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