Oral Health

Smile Survey

Washington's oral health programs are making progress for kindergarten and second- and third-grade children! During the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, the Washington State Department of Health conducted the fifth Smile Survey. More than 13,000 children in 76 public schools and over 1,400 preschool children from 47 Head Start and ECEAP program participated in the 2015-1016 Smile Survey. Dental screenings were completed by licensed dental hygienists and one dentist.

The report assesses the oral health status and treatment needs of children throughout the state. Results are compared with the 2010 and 2005 Smile Survey results where possible. The 2016 survey results revealed that Washington's oral health policies and programs have made progress for a few indicators. However, findings also show that tooth decay is still a major concern for Washington's children.

Read the full 2015-2016 Smile Survey (PDF).

Oral Health Across the Life Span

"Oral Health is essential to the general health and well-being of all Americans..."
"Oral health means more than sound teeth. Oral health is integral to overall health..."

Oral Health in America, A Report of the Surgeon General 2000

Good oral health is important for good general health and quality of life. Oral health affects both physical health and mental health. It affects how we grow, enjoy life, look, speak, chew, taste food and socialize. Dental care remains the top unmet health care need for low income adults, older adults, and children with special health care needs. But dental disease is largely preventable by practicing simple behaviors at home. Learn ways to prevent tooth decay and gum disease and enjoy better overall health.


  • Dental Crisis in America:The Need to Expand Access (PDF). A report from Chairman Bernard Sanders Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions 2-29-2012.
  • New York Times: Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities. "I have parents tell me all the time, 'No one told us when to go to the dentist, when we should start using fluoride toothpaste' - all this basic information to combat the No.1 chronic disease in children." Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist, on an increase in the number of preschoolers with cavities.


Check out the Oral Health Improvement Plan (PDF). Learn more about Washington's oral health needs and collaborative solutions. Help improve the oral health of your community! Join your local oral health coalition.

Fluoridation of Drinking Water

You may have heard that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has recommended a level of 0.7 milligrams per liter as optimal for fluoride in drinking water throughout the United States.

The State Board of Health, which oversees the state's fluoridation of drinking water rule, has revised the rule to reflect this new standard. The new rule was adopted by the Board on March 9, 2016 and went into effect May 9, 2016.

Learn more about fluoride in drinking water: