Opinion

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Prior Exam Rule Hinders Prevention of Child Tooth Decay

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We can improve oral health for Hawaii's children. And we should — because the numbers tell a disturbing story.

In 2010, Hawaii's Health Department screened more than 9,100 schoolchildren and found that more than 1 in 4 had serious dental problems that required "urgent or acute dental treatment." Most of these serious dental conditions began as cavities. We would do a much better job of preventing tooth decay if Hawaii provided dental sealants to more children.

Why aren't more Hawaii kids receiving sealants? Our state's "prior exam rule" is a major obstacle. This outdated rule requires a dentist to examine children before they can receive sealants. This extra step isn't needed because hygienists are adequately trained to assess molars before applying sealants. In fact, a CDC expert panel concluded that an exam by a dentist is unnecessary to determine if a tooth should be sealed. The Pew Charitable Trusts has found that ending this rule would enable many more children to receive sealants.

Read the full story at the staradvertiser.com.