Nebraska Third Graders Dental Health Status Improving – KCSR / KBPY


Public Health Hygienist Program Credited for helping change

Nebraska third-grade students’ experience with tooth decay is below the national average, according to the latest Nebraska Early Childhood Oral Health Survey.

The 2021-2022 survey, coordinated by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, showed that grade III tooth decay experience across the state dropped from 64% to 58%, better than the national average of 60%. The improvement was calculated based on state assessment data prior to 2015-2016.

State Dental Health Director Dr. Charles F. Craft is encouraged by the results. Since the last survey in 2015-2016, rates of tooth decay among third-grade students have declined significantly across the state, and the disparity in dental disease between urban and rural children has also narrowed significantly,” Dr. Craft said.

He attributes much of the improvement to dental disease prevention teams made up of public health hygienists and community health workers who go into child care centers and elementary schools to provide preventive care such as topical fluoride and dental sealants. Dr. Craft added, “From 2017 to 2019, this unique dental workforce provided an average of more than 100,000 dental services annually.”

Whitney Crist, president of the Nebraska Dental Hygienists Association, said the recent survey results highlight the success of community-based dental disease prevention and education programs, especially in rural areas. “For 15 years, public health dental hygienists have made a significant positive impact in delivering essential oral health services to underserved populations,” said Crist. “The report findings highlight the need to bring these evidence-based, cost-effective Essential disease interventions expand to new locations across the state to improve oral health among Nebraska children.

Crist added, “Increasing the representation of public health dental hygienists and their services not only recognizes the impactful work they do on the front lines of improving oral health, but also signals an important step forward in reducing the need for oral health. A positive step forward regarding health care disparities in Alaska.

“The momentum created by these programs should be expanded to ensure continued improvements in dental health for all children in our state,” said Dr. Craft.

A key component of the outreach campaign is the Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kit campaign developed by the Nebraska DHHS. The purpose of the hygiene kit is to educate new parents about the importance of proper daily oral hygiene as soon as their baby is born. More than 50,000 kits have been distributed to birthing hospitals, pediatric clinics, dental clinics, community health centers, local health departments, Early Head Start programs, WIC programs, home visiting sites and many other locations across the state.

For information about the Nebraska Early Dental Health Starter Kit, surveillance reports, and other resources provided by the DHHS Office of Oral Health and Dental, visit the Office of Oral Health and Dental website at You can view the Nebraska Early Dentistry Starter Kits video at

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which is an opportunity to explore the comprehensive dental health FAQs on the Nebraska Dental Association website:

For more information about the Nebraska Dental Hygienists Association, visit the association’s website at

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