|More to Smile About in 2014: Report Charts Improvements in NH’s Oral Health Care Landscape||| Print ||
New Hampshire has taken some significant steps to improve oral health through prevention, improved access and additional workforce providers, according to a new report from the New Hampshire Dental Society (NHDS).
The “More to Smile About 2014,” report recently released as an update to “Something to Smile About” from 2010 documents changes in oral health care in the state during the last four years. NHDS’ main goals included prevention education, removing barriers to access, supporting current public/partnerships and enhancing the oral health workforce.
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“We analyzed changes in oral health from 2010 until now, to see if our efforts have been successful,” said Jim Williamson, NHDS Executive Director. “Improvements have been made and new initiatives are underway. The Society is committed to working to find ways to get all New Hampshire residents the oral care they need.”
In 2013, New Hampshire was one of only five states to earn an “A” grade in a Pew Center on the States report regarding the use of sealants in preventive oral health care for children. New Hampshire currently has sealant programs in more than 75 percent of its high-risk schools. Another Pew study showed that as of 2013, only one percent of the state’s population is considered “underserved,” which is a decrease from 4.6 percent in 2011. In an additional study, 75 percent of New Hampshire adults 18 and over reported visiting a dentist in a one-year period.
New Hampshire has made significant strides in adding to the dental workforce. During 2012 and 2013, 133 new dentists were licensed in New Hampshire and are practicing in more than 19 different towns across the state. Two new dental providers were also established through legislation and regulations: Expanded Function Dental Assistants and Certified Public Health Hygienists. These providers are especially helpful in school-based clinics, where they can provide children with temporary care and preventive care until they can see a dentist.
In 2010, there were only 15 public health clinics serving New Hampshire residents. That number has grown to 17, with two additional clinics are under development. Many dental clinics, like Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth, report having excess capacity.
New Hampshire dentists continue to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars in free care and volunteer hours annually, according to a 2012 member survey, and participate in several programs throughout the year. In 2013, more than 45 dentists participated in Give Kids a Smile in February, providing donated care to more than 800 children. Adults on the seacoast also received donated care in February through the Dentists with a Heart program.
The NH Donated Dental Services Program, now called Dental Lifeline Network, was established more than 10 years ago to provide care to residents who are elderly, have disabilities or who have other medical issues and are unable to afford dental treatment. Since the program began, more than 596 residents have received more than $2.3 million dollars worth of care from New Hampshire dentists.
While great progress has been made, there is still work to be done to improve oral health care for all residents. NHDS continues to work with its member dentists, individuals and organizations around the state to build toward 2020 when New Hampshire residents will have even more to smile about.