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Dental Care

Narrative

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental caries (tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease among children in the United States. Untreated tooth decay causes pain and infections, which may affect children’s ability to eat, speak, play, and learn.1 Tooth decay, however, is preventable with proper dental care. For this reason, the American Dental Association recommends that children have their first dental checkup within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or at 12 months of age, whichever comes first.2

In 2009, 78.4 percent of children aged 2–18 years received dental care in the past year while 15.0 percent had not received such care in more than 2 years. Receipt of dental care varied by a number of factors, including insurance status and poverty. Over 80 percent of children with private health insurance coverage received past-year dental care, as did 76.6 percent of children with public insurance, and only 51.6 percent of uninsured children. Poor and near poor children, or those living in households with incomes at or below 100 or 200 percent of the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty threshold ($22,025 for a family of four in 2008), were less likely than children living in households with incomes above 200 percent of the poverty threshold to have received past-year dental care (71.5 and 75.6 percent, respectively, compared to 82.2 percent).

Similar patterns were observed for unmet dental care needs. Overall, 7.1 percent of children had unmet dental care needs in 2009. However, the proportion of children with unmet needs was substantially higher among those who were uninsured (27.8 percent) compared to those with either private (4.4 percent) or public (6.7 percent) insurance. Similar proportions of poor and near poor children, about 10 percent, had unmet dental needs compared to 4.5 percent of children living in households with incomes above 200 percent of the poverty threshold.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Oral Health. Children’s Oral Health. Accessed April 2011.
2 American Dental Association. For the patient: baby’s first teeth, JADA 2002; 133(2):255

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

time since last dental contact graph

This image is described in the Data section.

unmet dental need graph

Data

Time Since Last Dental Contact Among Children Aged 2-17 Years, by Insurance Type, 2009
Insurance Type Percent of Population
Less than 1 Year Between 1 and 2 Years More than 2 Years
*Respondents could report multiple reasons.
**Among adolescents who received past-year mental health treatment or counseling.
Source: Bloom B, Cohen RA, Freeman G. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2009. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(247). 2010.
Total 78.4 6.6 15.0
Private Insurance 82.6 5.1 11.6
Public Insurance 76.6 7.0 15.5
Uninsured 51.6 14.0 33.9

Unmet Dental Need* Among Children Aged 2-17 Years in Past 12 Months, by Insurance Status and Type, 2009

Percent of Population:

  • Total: 7.1
  • Private insurance: 4.4
  • Public insurance: 6.7
  • Uninsured: 27.9

*Based on parent report that services were needed but were not affordable.

Source: Bloom B, Cohen RA, Freeman G. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2009. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(247). 2010.


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