Development and Status of the National Oral Health Surveillance System
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Development and Status of the National Oral Health Surveillance System

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    During the last 2 decades of the 20th century, few national, state, or local oral health programs were able to conduct public health surveillance in a timely fashion. Under the leadership of the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and with substantial support from the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Oral Health Surveillance System was established as a first step in helping oral health programs routinely document population needs and program impact with standard, feasible methods. In 1999, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists approved 7 oral health indicators for public health surveillance: 3 for adults (most recent dental visit, most recent dental cleaning, total tooth loss) using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; 3 for third-grade students (presence of treated or untreated dental caries, untreated tooth decay, dental sealants) collected by states using a standard screening protocol; and the percentage of the population served by public water systems that receives optimally fluoridated water, tracked through the Water Fluoridation Reporting System. The Web site that describes the National Oral Health Surveillance System ( and provides access to current indicators was launched in 2001 with adult and water fluoridation data for all states; child indicators were added later. Data are now available electronically for 35 to 51 states (including the District of Columbia), depending on the indicator, indicating progress toward state-specific monitoring of these oral health indicators.
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