Community Health and Benefit

Oral Health

The health and development of a child's mouth and teeth are as important as any other part of the body, yet tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease.

Washington's 1-year-olds are five times as likely, and its 2-year-olds more than twice as likely, as children nationwide to have tooth decay. Over half of the state's second graders have experienced dental decay.

From year to year there has been a roughly 10% increase in the volume of dental emergencies in Children's Emergency Department. Tooth decay in children is almost entirely preventable.

Poor oral health in children has been linked to poor performance in school, poor social relationships and less success in later life. Children's works to improve kids' oral health by promoting awareness and improving access to care.

We have joined the University of Washington to provide dental services at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry.

Children's is a member of the Watch Your Mouth campaign to raise awareness about the importance of kids' oral health and frame the issue in terms of societal solutions.

More than 132 individuals and groups are members of this coalition, including the Association of Washington Business, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, University of Washington School of Dentistry, Washington Association of Migrant and Community Health Centers, Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, Washington Education Association, Washington State Dental Association and Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

Funded by the Washington Dental Service, the campaign promotes these important messages:

  • Children's oral health is an important and overlooked component of overall health and well-being.
  • If oral disease is not treated early, a child's health and achievement are at risk.
  • Sealants and fluorides are as important in protecting against disease as immunizations.
  • The last decade of medical research has given us ways to protect children so they won't have to see a dentist as often; but we must get them into prevention and care early.
  • Children's oral disease is entirely preventable; and
  • Children's oral health is the entire community's concern.

Children's Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, Public Health—Seattle and King County and Washington Dental Service are partnering in an innovative pilot project to train King County health care providers to screen infants and children for early signs of poor oral health with the hope of preventing decay.

As a result, these medical providers can play an integral role in improving the oral health of their young patients.

Children's recently completed the Healthy Smiles Project, funded by the Washington Dental Service Foundation, to engage pediatricians and family physicians in providing oral health prevention services. Healthy Smiles increased access to oral health services in areas of great need.

The project found that early identification of children at high risk for dental disease is critical to prevent more expensive treatments of progressed disease.