A new study released by First Things First (FTF) shows Arizona is making significant strides in the area of early childhood Oral Health. The most common disease faced by young children, early childhood caries (a rapid form of tooth decay), can cause lasting harm to a child’s oral and general health, as well as impact their intellectual and social development. Oral disease nationally causes kids to miss 51 million school hours per year. There are additional costs of tooth decay for families and society. Treatment of severe ECC can initially cost $6,000 to $12,000, especially if children need to be hospitalized and treated under general anesthesia. On the other hand, the cost of a preventive dental visit is less than $200.
Since fiscal year 2010, FTF has invested more than $23 million in efforts to prevent ECC and promote positive oral health practices in families and communities. This includes providing a total of 177,950 oral health screenings and 162,240 fluoride varnishes to children birth to 5 years old through fiscal year 2015.
The study shows that FTF and its early childhood system partners’ prevention efforts are paying off. Since 2003, the percentage of Arizona’s kindergarteners with untreated decay has decreased from 35% to 27%. The percentage of Arizona’s kindergarten children with a dental visit in the last year increased from 54% to 77%. In addition, the percentage of young children who had never been to a dentist was cut by more than half, dropping from 25% to 10%.
ACS has been providing support to FTF leadership on strategy planning, facilitation, communication, and capacity building since in 2009. Read more ACS’s work with FTF here.