The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that seven states, including Colorado, will receive a total of $1.4 million to strengthen their oral health programs and reduce inequalities in the oral health of their residents.
Along with Colorado, included states are Alaska, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas.
"These awards will help these states to develop and implement proven preventive measures to improve the oral health of their residents," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. "Achieving good oral health is more than just having strong teeth, it’s a vital link to our overall good health."
States will receive between $118,557 to $351,758 this year, with the awards renewable for up to five years. For all states, the funding is designed to improve basic state oral health services, including support for program leadership and adding additional staff, monitoring oral health risk factors, and developing and evaluating prevention programs.
Oregon and South Carolina qualified for additional funds this year to develop and coordinate school-based dental sealant and community water fluoridation programs, respectively.
"The states receiving these awards will be able to address significant problems in the oral health of their citizens," said Dr. William R. Maas, director of CDC’s Oral Health program. "For instance, Alaska will be able to reduce the high rate of early childhood tooth decay in children of Alaska Natives. Colorado can develop a program to reduce the high rate of spit tobacco use among adolescents in their state, and more Oregonians will gain access to fluoridated water, a proven preventative for tooth decay.
"The support CDC is providing to these states will allow them to educate their residents on the importance of oral health, establish oral health coalitions and other partnerships, develop state oral health plans and monitor whether their states’ oral health objectives are being met. As a result, these states will be able to better target new activities aimed at preventing oral disease in children and adults," Maas said.
The CDC Oral Health program seeks to improve the oral health of communities by extending the use of proven strategies to prevent oral diseases, enhancing monitoring of oral diseases, strengthening the nation’s oral health capacity, and guiding infection control in dentistry.
Dr. Diane Brunson, director of the Oral Health Program with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, was thrilled to receive the grant, which she said will help provide better oral health for the state.
"We can’t do it alone because so many programs are like one-day sessions or one-person operations," Brunson said. "This is going to allow us to do some things we haven’t been able to do."
Colorado will develop a statewide oral health surveillance system to collect and monitor data about each of the Healthy People 2010 oral health objectives for the nation, as well as required information related to maternal and child health, and also will implement a preventive oral health program targeting high-risk children and adults. Three staff members, including an epidemiologist and dental hygienist will be hired.
"We want to communicate to the public that oral health is general health," Brunson said.
The director said the money will be used to help monitor what oral health diseases are prevalent in Colorado and if any progress is being made to combat the disease.
According to a CDC study, "Oral Health Report 2000," the nation’s oral health is the best it has ever been, yet oral diseases remain common in the United States, the study’s authors concluded.
Among the findings:
- Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases – 5 times as common as asthma and 7 times as common as hay fever in 5-to-17-year-olds.
- 18 percent of 2-to-4-year-old children have experienced tooth decay, and 16 percent have untreated decay.
- Only 23 percent of 8-year-old children have at least one dental sealant on their molar teeth.
- By age 17, 78 percent of young people have had a cavity, and 7 percent have lost at least one permanent tooth.
- Among adults aged 35 to 44, 69 percent have lost at least one permanent tooth.
- Among adults aged 65 to 74, 26 percent have lost all their natural teeth.
- Among adults aged 35 to 44, 48 percent have gingivitis, and 22 percent have destructive gum disease.
- In the U.S., 30,000 people are diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer each year, and 8,000 die of these cancers.
- In 1998, a total of $53.8 billion was spent on dental care – 48 percent was paid by dental insurance, 4 percent by government programs and 48 percent was paid out-of-pocket.
- More than 108 million Americans do not have dental insurance. For every child without medical insurance, there are 2.6 without dental insurance; for every adult without medical insurance, three are without dental insurance.
Last year, the Colorado Commission on Children’s Dental Health report its findings following an eight-month study of concerns about the lack of dental care for some Colorado children. The report concluded that:
- Colorado low-income and at-risk children have severe and urgent oral health care needs that are not being met.
- Many of these children lack access to oral health care services.
- There are important differences between pediatric and adult dental services that need to be addressed.
- There is a dental workforce shortage in Colorado.
- Parents, guardians and other adults play a critical role in the oral health of children.
Brunson said the total request to the CDC was for $841,000 over five years. The current award provides funding for just the first year. After which the department will have to reapply for funding for additional years.
Brunson said there should be no problems as long as the project is well maintained and its objectives are reexamined each year.
"Unless everything falls apart, the funding should be there," he said.