NH DHHS - New Hampshire Receives “A” Grade for Dental Sealant Rate in Children

Concord, NH – New Hampshire is one of only five stats to receive a grade of

“A” in a new report by the Pew Research Foundation on the impact of school

dental sealant programs on children’s oral health. Sealants are a clear

protective coating applied to teeth to prevent cavities in children. Dental

care remains the greatest unmet health need among U.S. children, espe­cially

for low-income children, who are almost twice as likely to develop cavities

as children from families with higher incomes.

New Hampshire school sealant programs reach more than 75% of high-risk

schools, surpassing the national Healthy People 2010 oral health goals for

children. The Division of Public Health Services at the New Hampshire

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has conducted three

statewide surveys to assess the oral health of third grade students. A

fourth survey is planned for September 2013. Between the second and third

surveys in 2004 and 2009, respectively, data show that among third graders,

untreated decay decreased from 24.1% to 12.0%, history of decay decreased

from 51.0% to 43.6%, and the presence of dental sealants increased from

42.5% to 60.4%. The improvement in children’s oral health is attributed to

changes in the Medicaid dental program, the fluoridation of the Manchester

public water supply, preventive services for Head Start children at risk

for dental diseases, and a statewide focus on the application of dental

sealants on students’ teeth through school-based and school-linked


“Tooth decay can have far-reaching effects on children,” said Dr. José

Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS. “Untreated decay can cause pain

and infection that may lead to difficulty eating, speaking, socializing,

and sleeping and to poor overall health. Dental problems also negatively

affect school attendance and performance. Oral health is an important part

of overall health care.”

Pew’s grades for states with school-based dental sealant programs are based

on four indicators that should be a key part of any state’s prevention


1. Having sealant programs in high-need schools,

2. Allowing hygienists to place sealants in school-based programs without

requiring a dentist’s exam,

3. Collecting data regularly about the dental health of school-children and

submitting it to a national oral health database, and

4. Meeting a national health objective on sealants.

Dental disease also has serious financial consequences due to the cost of

treating children’s tooth decay. Many children end up in hospital emergency

departments for tooth-related pain and infection. In New Hampshire, from

2001 to 2007, emergency department charges associated with dental

conditions for people of all ages totaled $26.9 million.

School-based sealant programs save money by preventing the need for

fillings and other expensive procedures among children at higher risk for

cavities. Evidence supports the cost-effectiveness of school-based sealant

programs. The average cost of sealing one molar is less than one-third of

the expense of filling a cavity. By expanding the number of children

reached by sealant programs, states can spare kids the consequences of

tooth decay while making a smarter investment of tax dollars.

For more information about the New Hampshire DPHS Oral Health Program visit

http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/bchs/rhpc/oral/index.htm. To read the entire

Pew report, go to