Bellingham Smile Survey
2005 Final Report
In 2004, the Whatcom County Oral Health Coalition asked the Whatcom County Health Department
to conduct a local oral health screening of 3rd grade children attending public schools in the
Bellingham district in conjunction with the statewide Smile Survey.
A Registered Dental Hygienist screened 84% of Bellingham 3rd grade students (653 children).
60% of children had experienced tooth decay (cavities). This is much higher than the Healthy
People 2010 national target of 42%. 20% of the 3rd graders had untreated decay.
22% of children had rampant tooth decay, defined as 7 or more teeth with treated or untreated
decay. This is a significantly higher rate than the statewide rate of 15% (2000 WA Smile
19% of children were referred for dental treatment, including 2% referred for urgent treatment
due to pain, infection or swelling.
51% of children had at least one dental sealant on a permanent molar. This meets the Healthy
People 2010 national target of 50% and can be attributed to Bellingham Public Schools
participating in a school-based sealant program.
Low-income children (those on the free or reduced lunch program) were significantly more likely
to have experienced tooth decay, have untreated tooth decay, and rampant decay, and be
referred for dental treatment than children that were not low-income.
While low-income children have higher rates of tooth decay, over 50% of children who are not
low-income also experience tooth decay and 14% have untreated tooth decay.
Tooth decay is an infectious, transmissible disease with multiple contributing factors. It is the most
common chronic disease of childhood, five times more common than asthma. Given the
preventable nature of dental decay and its significant consequences for children – pain, missed