New Hampshire: Schools Helping Children Have Healthy Teeth

One of the most common health problems faced by children in the United States is tooth decay, or cavities. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain, infections, and problems with eating. Children experiencing pain from tooth decay also can have a hard time speaking or concentrating on their schoolwork. New Hampshire screens third-grade students every year to find out how many have tooth decay and whether it has been treated. During the screening, a dental hygienist looks in a child’s mouth to see how healthy the child’s teeth are. The 2009 statewide screening showed that one in eight children had untreated tooth decay.

School-based dental programs make it easier for children without a regular dentist to get tooth decay found and treated. Since 2000, the New Hampshire Oral Health Program has used part of the state’s Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to support school-based dental programs. In 2014, dental hygienists visited 126 schools to clean children’s teeth, give fluoride treatments, and teach good oral health habits. Fourteen thousand children learned ways to keep their teeth healthy, and 4,000 had their teeth checked for decay.

New Hampshire also used some of its PHHS Block Grant funds to start providing dental care to children who aren’t old enough to go to school. Hygienists from the New Hampshire Oral Health Program provide checkups and basic treatment at three WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) clinic sites. The WIC clinics saw more than 500 dental patients in 2015, about one quarter of whom were under age 1 year. Preventing tooth decay beginning at age 1 helps children have healthier teeth when they start school and be less likely to have untreated tooth decay
by third grade.

The school-based dental programs are making a big difference. The 2014 screening survey of third-grade students found 32% fewer children with untreated tooth decay than in 2009. The PHHS Block Grant is helping New Hampshire children have healthy teeth and happy smiles.

Story year: 2015

This picture shows a school-based dental clinic with a child being treated by two dental professionals.

New Hampshire used PHHS Block Grant funding to provide dental services to school-aged children who lacked access to regular dental care.

Page last reviewed: April 17, 2018