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For Immediate Release
September 12 2013

New Data Shows Dramatic Gains to Children's Oral Health in S.C.

COLUMBIA - Access to oral health for South Carolina's children has improved significantly since surveillance began in 2002, as indicated by a new report from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the S.C. Rural Health Research Center (SCRHRC) at the USC Arnold School of Public Health.

New data released this week from the 2012/2013 S.C. Oral Health Needs Assessment (OHNA) shows big gains in all four areas of concern studied. Most notable is the number of children requiring emergency dental care (within 24 to 48 hours) has dropped from 11.4% surveyed to 1.4% since 2002. The number of children requiring urgent dental care (within several weeks) has dropped from 20.7% to 10.3% in the same period.

The data also shows an increase from 20.3% to 31.2% in the use of dental sealants, a cost-effective tooth covering that prevents bacteria from causing decay in large molars.

Read a summary of the new report.

"The dramatic improvements we have seen in our children's oral health since 2002 demonstrate that the many innovative education and outreach efforts, volunteer clinics, and public-private partnerships have made a tremendous impact," said DHEC director Catherine Templeton. "Our goal is to achieve even greater results in child oral health by continuing to expand access where there is need across the state."

Volunteer-led clinics, oral health prevention messages via education, trainings, and outreach have taken place through established partnerships with the SC Dental Association, Head Start, childcare centers, EdVenture Children's Museum and the Columbia Marionette Theater. Through these partnerships, DHEC and the SCOHACC have provided access to families and educated them with information to help them improve their oral health.

Dental caries (tooth decay) is the number one chronic disease in children, and is strongly impacted by risk behaviors such as unhealthy eating, poor oral hygiene, low exposure to fluoride, and lack of routine dental care. Dental-related illness accounts for an estimated 51 million school hours lost per year in South Carolina. Increasing children's access to preventive services helps children stay healthier and means fewer missed school days.

DHEC will continue to work with private and public partners across the state to ensure that no child has to face painful dental emergencies or school absences due to a lack of preventive dental care.

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For media inquiries:
DHEC
Mark Plowden - (803) 898-9518 
Email:  Mark.Plowden@dhec.sc.gov