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Report: Children's oral health getting worse

Associated Press

FRANKFORT -- A new survey of more 2,000 Kentucky children has found 41 percent of them have untreated cavities despite having a greater access to dentists.

Multiple news outlets reported Delta Dental of Kentucky and Kentucky Youth Advocates presented the results of the survey to the state legislature's Interim Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday. It was the first report of its kind since 2001.

The survey showed the number of third- and sixth-graders who need early or urgent dental care rose to 49 percent from 32 percent statewide since 2001. That's despite the fact that the number of third- and sixth-graders who have dental insurance has increased by 15 percent over that same time period. However, the report found Hispanic and Latino students are less likely to have health insurance than their peers.

Dental care also varied by region, with eastern Kentucky faring poorly. While 41 percent of children had untreated cavities statewide, that number rose to 53 percent in eastern Kentucky, or roughly 15,100 children.

Dr. Hector Martinez, a professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Louisville involved in planning the survey, said the report reinforces the importance of parents making sure their children have dental care.

"That's why this research is so important," Martinez said, according to The Courier-Journal. "We are trying to catch their attention."

The report recommended lawmakers have develop a statewide oral health plan, promote oral health literacy campaigns and develop programs to provide sealants in all high-needs schools. Sealants protect teeth against cavities. The survey found more than half of third- and sixth-graders did not have sealant.

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