Michigan Oral Health Coalition: Michigan Receives ‘C’ in National Report Card on Dental Sealants

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The Pew report, Falling Short: Most States Lag on Dental Sealants.

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Michigan Oral Health Coalition

Dental sealants are one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent tooth decay so children are more likely to stay in school and perform better in class.

The Pew report, Falling Short: Most States Lag on Dental Sealants, that came out January 8th, 2013, grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their efforts to prevent decay by improving access to sealants for low-income children. The national report card gives Michigan a ‘C’ grade for the number of children with dental sealants—plastic coatings applied to the chewing surface of molars to prevent tooth decay.

Most states are not doing enough to use a proven strategy for preventing tooth decay, unnecessarily driving up health care costs for families and taxpayers. In fact, the new report by the Pew Center on the States reveals that 20 states and the District of Columbia earned either a ‘D’ or ‘F’ grade when it comes to providing children with dental sealants, clear plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of molars that prevent decay at one-third the expense of filling a cavity.

“Dental sealants are one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent tooth decay so children are more likely to stay in school and perform better in class,” said Karlene Ketola, Executive Director, Michigan Oral Health Coalition. “Michigan’s policymakers need to do more to expand dental sealant programs to reach more low-income children.”

Sealants are typically first applied to children’s molars when they are in the 1st grade, shortly after their permanent teeth appear. Although it has been 45 years since the first research paper reported the successful use of sealants, states have been slow to use this prevention strategy. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, dental sealant rates vary geographically. Children living in the southern Lower Peninsula have the lowest percentage of sealants present on first molars, with particularly low rates among minorities.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has recognized the state’s SEAL! Michigan program as a best practice in the effort to improve dental care for low-income children who have a higher risk of tooth decay. Launched in 2007, SEAL! Michigan was significantly expanded in 2011 with the combined support of $300,000 from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and Delta Dental of Michigan.

“Michigan has the necessary framework and foundation as it allows registered dental hygienists to travel into schools to place dental sealants, and has enough providers interested in providing school-based care,” said Jill Moore, RDH, BSDH, MHA, Dental Sealant Coordinator, Michigan Department of Community Health. “At this point, funding for additional SEAL! Michigan programs is the only hindrance to achieving an ‘A’ and more importantly to drastically reduce dental decay in children all across Michigan.”

The program currently has nine non-profit grantee organizations, working to improve access to sealants for low-income children across the state. In the 2011-2012 school year, 3,787 students were given dental sealants free-of-charge at 134 elementary and middle schools through the SEAL! Michigan program.

SEAL! Michigan Grantee Programs
1. Alcona Health Centers
Contact: Lea Krause 989-736-9838
Video Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX-xvFAUoXk

2. Henry Ford Health System
Contact: Beverly Edwards 313-874-7202

3. Ingham County Health Department
Contact: Kyle Norman, 517-272-4155 Video Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ot6nslNeF9c

4. Institute for Population Health
Contact: Sally Meyer 313-324-9729

5. Ottawa County Health Department
Contact: Deb Bassett 616-393-5771

6. Smiles on Wheels
Contact: Kim Crabtree 517-740-2596

7. Thunder Bay Community Health Service, Inc.
Contact: Erika Price 989-785-5286

8. Upper Peninsula Association of Rural Health Services
Contact: Ellen Moilanen 906-228-3613

9. Western Wayne Family Health Centers
Contact: Mona Riaz 313-915-1216

About Michigan Oral Health Coalition
Michigan Oral Health Coalition is a non-profit whose mission is to improve oral health in Michigan by focusing on prevention, health promotion, oral health data, access, and the link between oral health and overall health. With more than 125 members, the Coalition is comprised of primary care clinicians, oral health clinicians, dental benefit providers, advocacy and provider organizations, state and local government officials, and consumers working together to improve oral health in Michigan.

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