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Good News for Colorado Children's Oral Health, but Challenges Remain

Coloradans received some good news about children's oral health last week with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's (CDPHE) release of findings from the 2011-2012 Basic Screening Survey. CDPHE's chart (on the right side of this page – click it to see a bigger version) illustrates some of the overall findings. For the non-visual learners out there, Colorado schoolchildren had lower rates of untreated dental decay and more children are receiving dental sealants, a proven intervention to prevent tooth decay.

While the Colorado Health Institute is careful in our data interpretation, a steady, improving trend line over nearly ten years and three consecutive surveys is encouraging. This is good news for many Colorado children and families. Evidence demonstrates the link between healthy, cavity-free mouths and healthy bodies. This is also good news for the oral health and medical providers, foundations, safety net clinics, schools and state agencies that are working together to win the battle to improve oral health in Colorado.

Efforts to improve health, especially population health issues like oral health, can be difficult to measure. Gains may take decades, not years, which makes the 2011-2012 oral health survey results all the more striking.

This chart only shows half the story. Colorado also learned that our lower-income and Latino schoolchildren did not experience similar improvements. Colorado's oral and children's health providers, supporters and advocates can see their work gaining traction, and these findings highlight the need for increased, targeted efforts to address these economic and ethnic disparities.  

Check out Michael Booth's Denver Post article to read more. 

Sara Schmitt is the director of community health policy at CHI.