- Background. The prevalence of pediatric dental caries (PDC) is 55.7% nationally, 52% in Oregon, and 73% in Southeastern Oregon. We examined prevention programs, clinical services, and water fluoride levels in Southeastern Oregon to understand the high PDC prevalence.
Methods. We conducted telephone surveys and used secondary data to assess water fluoridation levels, PDC prevention programs, and estimated number of dental providers in a seven county region of southeastern Oregon (Baker, Crook, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur, Wheeler).
Results. We found that approximately 95% of the population is drinking inadequately fluoridated water in 4 of the 7 counties. School based PDC prevention programs have limited reach (60% pediatric coverage), and the ratio of dentists to people under age 18 in 4 of the 7 counties is quite low (1:>400), in contrast to Benton county (our comparison) where the ratio is 1:248.
The high prevalence of PDC may result from poor water fluoridation levels, inadequate screenings by school-based intervention programs, and limited access to dental services. Each county’s PDC rates may vary due to differences in resource availability and require different intervention measures to effectively improve PDC rates.