Update on disparities in oral health and access to dental care for America's children

Acad Pediatr. 2009 Nov-Dec;9(6):415-9. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2009.09.010.


This contribution updates federal survey findings on children's oral health and dental care since release of Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General in 2000. Dental caries experience continued at high levels, impacting 40% of all children aged 2 to 11 years, with greater disease and untreated disease burden borne by poor and low-income children and racial/ethnic minorities. Caries rates increased for young children (to 28% of 2- to 5-year-olds in the period 1999-2004) and remained flat for most other ages. The total volume of caries and untreated caries increased as the numbers of children increased. The proportion of US children with a dental visit increased modestly (from 42% to 45% between 1996 and 2004), with the greatest increases occurring among children newly covered by the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Disparities in dental visits continued to be evidenced by age, family income, race/ethnicity, and caregiver education. Parental reports of children's oral health and dental care parallel these findings and also reveal higher unmet dental needs among children with special health care needs. Racial- and income-based disparities in both oral health and dental care continue into adolescence and young adulthood. These disparities can, as in the past, be expected to exacerbate under the forces of growing income disparities and demographic trends.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Care for Children / statistics & numerical data
  • Dental Care for Children / trends*
  • Dental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dental Health Services / trends
  • Dental Health Surveys
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Male
  • Medicaid / economics
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Oral Health*
  • Racial Groups
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology