Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia do not have sealant programs in a majority of high-need schools, which are schools with more than 50 percent of students who participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, according to the report.
Pew researchers based the grades on four indicators that the organization said should be a key part of any state's prevention strategy: having sealant programs in high-need schools; allowing hygienists to place sealants in school-based programs without requiring a dentist's exam; collecting data regularly about the dental health of schoolchildren and submitting it to a national oral health database; and meeting a national health objective on sealants.
Dr. Jana Winfree, chief of dental service at the state Health Department, said for the past year, a task force of Oklahoma's oral health leaders has worked to create recommendations for improving children's dental health.
“We do recognize the importance of preventive care and sealants,” Winfree said. “Progress is being made on a sealant initiative for the state.”
The group is looking for ways to finance a school-based dental sealant program. It estimates it will cost at least $250,000 to start up the program, Winfree said.
“Sealants, along with fluoridation, good oral hygiene and a healthy diet — you need all of these things in order to have a healthy smile,” Winfree said.