Oklahoma is among the many states that aren't doing enough to prevent tooth decay among low-income children, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Pew Center on the States report shows several states lag in 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, according to the organization's report.
Sealants are typically first applied to children's molars when they are in the second grade, shortly after their permanent teeth appear, according to the report.
The Pew Center on the States is a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization that applies an analytical approach to improve public policy and inform the public, according to the group's website.
Dr. Bill Maas, a policy adviser for the Pew Children's Dental Campaign, said many low-income children who get a cavity won't get to the dentist until it causes a toothache that gets their parents' attention, causing them to try and find a dentist that will accept Medicaid.
“That means the kid may be suffering for many weeks before anybody knows about it, not being able to pay attention in school, not being able to sleep,” Maas said.
Research shows that providing sealants through school-based programs is a cost-effective way to reach low-income children, who are at greater risk of decay, according to the report.
Oklahoma, along with 14 other states, received a D grade in the report, in part because the state lacks any sort of dental sealant program in its high-need schools, according to the report.