In November 2022, the RI Oral Health Coalition (RIOHC), RI Public Health Association (RIPHA), and the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) partnered to release a brief on the dental health of Rhode Island children and adults
. Using various data sources, including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and Basic Screening Survey of kindergarten and 3rd grade (the BSS), the data brief shows that there is a lot to celebrate, but also much to do to improve the oral health of all Rhode Islanders.
The good news is overall Rhode Islanders have less tooth decay when compared with the rest of the United States, but when one looks closer there are obvious disparities depending on race, ethnicity, geographic location, insurance status, and other social determinants of health.
The results of the BSS are particularly interesting given that initial comparison to other states is fantastic. However, of those kindergarten-aged children who had tooth decay, 21% have untreated tooth decay, compared to the national average of 15%. Furthermore, 24% of third-grade children have untreated dental caries, exceeding the national average of 20%. These discrepancies are even higher in children who are Black Non-Hispanic (21.4%) and Hispanic (28.3%) or are from a lower socio-economic area (25-28.1% depending on percentage of students who receive free of reduced school meals)(See Figure below). This shows that there needs to be more focus on access to care and education to caregivers on the importance of prevention.
Rebecca Kislak, JD; Rhode Island General Assembly Representative, District 4, Providence; Adjunct Professor of the Practice of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown School of Public Health
Ann Cadoret, RDH, MSDH, MPH; Rhode Island Oral Health Coalition
Samuel Zwetchkenbaum, DDS, MPH; State Dental Director; Assistant Professor of the Practice of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown School of Public Health
Also be on the look out for a deeper dive of the BSS results to be published by the RI Department of Health Oral Health Program and another joint brief on the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey from RIOHC, RIPHA, and RIDOH.