oral-healthTooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in Arizona. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

In 2015, the Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health, Office of Oral Health completed the Healthy Smiles Healthy Bodies Survey, a statewide survey on the oral health status of Arizona third grade children.  The survey was designed to monitor the burden of oral disease among Arizona 3rd graders and observed the presence of tooth decay, treatment needs, dental sealants, and access to care as related to oral health services.  More than 2,300 third grade children in public schools participated.

The survey was conducted by trained personnel using a validated, nationally recognized open-mouth survey tool developed by the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors. Results were compared to similar surveys conducted in 2000 and 2010.  Overall it was found that tooth decay continues to be a problem for Arizona children.

Because of this need in Arizona, Oral Health is one of the identified leading health issues in the Arizona Health Improvement Plan. The goal is to improve the oral health status of Arizonans by 5% by 2020. One of the strategies the plan focuses on is expanding access to childhood oral disease prevention programs. By changing oral health behaviors and addressing community factors and environmental influences, we can reduce the oral and dental diseases in children and prevent continuing oral health issues as they grow into adults. To learn more about the strategies and tactics that are being implemented for improving oral health, check out our Arizona Health Improvement Plan.