There are an estimated 17 million (i.e. one in five) children who go without dental care each year, according to the report. Children from low-income households suffer the most— they are twice as likely to have untreated decay as their more affluent peers and are a fifth less likely to receive care.
Fortunately, unlike many health problems, the challenge of ensuring children’s dental health is one that can be overcome. With education, prevention services and access to care—dental disease is nearly 100% preventable. Investing in healthy kids early on pays off throughout their lives. The negative effects of untreated dental disease start early, impacting a child’s learning, speech, nutrition and success in education. Later in life, untreated disease impacts an individual’s ability to get and keep work and maintain good personal health.
In 2003, the U. S. Surgeon General challenged America’s health leaders to educate the general public and policy makers about the need for good oral health and to identify and replicate effective programs that will improve the oral health of Americans. The Pew report highlights proven efforts that are working in these key areas:
- Preventing dental problems in the first place
- Ensuring children have access to dental care
- Tracking progress in each state when it comes to children’s dental health.
The DentaQuest Foundation hopes the data in this 50 state report will become a baseline upon which each state can build and move forward. I am hopeful that over the next few years we will see great progress in how we as a nation respond to the oral health needs of our children.
Guest post by Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation.