ST. PAUL, Minn. - It turns out more than half of Minnesota third graders have cavities, according to state health officials.
That's slightly higher than the national average, but the state has a plan to fight back.
The Minnesota Department of Health has developed its first ever comprehensive oral health plan. It said the state could save 49 million dollars a year in hospital costs if it had better oral health care for residents.
Tooth decay is nearly 100 percent preventable, yet 55 percent of Minnesota third graders have had it, just slightly higher than the national average of 53 percent.
The Minnesota Oral Health Plan identifies barriers to good oral health care which include low income levels and living in rural areas.
It also calls for solutions like providing dental sealants, increasing water fluoridation, improving education, training more dental providers and making sure reimbursement rates to providers are adequate.
Commissioner of Health Dr. Edward Ehlinger said making sure everyone has good oral health care is important because it affects overall health.
"Oral health actually links to a whole variety of things," said Ehlinger. "It's linked in many ways to healthy babies, preterm births. It's linked to heart disease. It's linked to cancer. It's linked to obesity. It's linked to a lot of things causing problems in our health care."
Ehlinger says it's time to make oral health care as important as regular medical care and on Friday, key players will meet to discuss this new plan.
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