Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation Leading Effort to Improve “B” Grade from Pew Center on the States; Report Shows that Most States Lag on Dental Sealants

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Minnesota gets a “B” on children’s dental health, according to the new report card from Pew Center on the States

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“We want to see improved dental access across the state and focus on oral disease prevention," said Ann Johnson, Foundation Executive Director and Director of Community Affairs for Delta Dental of Minnesota.

The grades are in! Minnesota gets a “B” on children’s dental health, according to the report card from Pew Center on the States, whose report was issued earlier this morning. The grades from Pew’s 50-state report focuses on children’s dental health, prevention, and states’ efforts to improve access to dental sealants for kids living in low-income circumstances. Minnesota received 8 out of a possible 11 points.

Sealants are typically first applied to children’s molars when they are in the 2nd grade, shortly after their permanent teeth appear. Research shows that providing sealants through school-based programs is a cost-effective way to reach children who are at greater risk of decay. In addition to protecting a healthy tooth, sealants can also prevent a cavity from forming when applied during the early stages of tooth decay.

The Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation is seeking to improve the state’s grade to an A, which was achieved by only five states in the Pew report. The grades of Minnesota’s neighbors varied widely. Wisconsin and North Dakota received A’s, Iowa earned a C, and South Dakota’s grade was a D.

“Delta Dental of Minnesota’s financial contributions and enthusiasm about children’s oral healthcare has helped ensure Minnesota performs better than most states,” said Sarah Wovcha, Executive Director for Children’s Dental Services. “Not only has Delta Dental helped launch more than a dozen school-based sealant programs across the state – reaching thousands of Minnesota kids – the company is also very passionate about educating children and adults on the importance of oral health care.”

“The state’s ‘B’ grade shows us that Minnesota has room for improvement,” says Ann Johnson, Foundation Executive Director and Director of Community Affairs for Delta Dental of Minnesota. “We want to see improved dental access across the state and focus on oral disease prevention.”
The Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation has created, and is funding $500,000 to launch a special sealant initiative to address this issue. It will expand school-based programs that prevent and reduce dental disease for children in underserved areas.

Pew’s 50-state report found that roughly two-thirds of all states, including Minnesota, do not have sealant programs in a majority of high-need schools; those with a significant proportion of children whose family income levels increase their risk of decay.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports the state’s direction is overall positive. In the past year Minnesota has experienced a 9% increase in the number of school-based sealant programs in high-need schools. “This report highlights the importance of using every tool available, including dental sealants in school-based programs, to protect our kids’ health,” said Merry Jo Thoele, Dental Director of the Minnesota Oral Health Program. “Even though cavities are almost 100 percent preventable, 55 percent of Minnesota children have had cavities by the 3rd grade.” The Minnesota Department of Health is scheduled to release a statewide oral health plan in January and to hold a statewide conference on oral health in February.

The Pew report also confirmed that preventable dental disease is punishing state budgets. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation’s investment to reach more high-risk children with sealants will help reduce the amount paid for fillings and other more costly dental treatments.

“Children’s health isn’t the only thing that suffers when states don’t invest in sealant programs,” said Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign. “States that miss this opportunity to prevent decay are saddling taxpayers with higher costs down the road through Medicaid or other programs.”

Between 2010 and 2020, annual Medicaid spending for dental care is expected to climb from $8 billion to more than $21 billion. Children account for roughly one-third of the program’s total spending on dental services. In 2009, U.S. children made more than 49,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms for preventable dental problems.

Pew’s 50-state report can be accessed at http://www.pewstates.org/dental-sealants.

About Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation – Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation is designed to support Delta Dental of Minnesota's mission of improving the oral health of the people in Minnesota. The Foundation will focus on improving access to oral health for people living in Minnesota, with special attention to increasing access among underserved persons, groups and communities as well as ideas and programs that provide innovative, long-term, sustainable solutions.

Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation was formed out of the proceeds of Delta Dental of Minnesota's 2009 sale of the dental benefit management company, DeCare Dental. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation had assets of approximately $92 million and granted about $2 million in 2012.

Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Delta Dental is a registered mark of Delta Dental Plans Association. Delta Dental of Minnesota is an independent nonprofit dental services company and is an authorized licensee of the Delta Dental Plans Association of Oak Brook, Illinois. For more information, visit http://www.deltadentalmn.org

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