CDC: Millions of kids don't have preventive dental care

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY:  Millions of infants, children and adolescents in the U.S. are not receiving preventive dental services, according to a September 2014 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Posted: September 18, 2014

kids need preventive dental care

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report September 12, 2014, stating that millions of infants, children and adolescents in the U.S. are not getting preventive dental services. 

The report, titled "Use of Dental Care and Effective Preventive Services in Preventing Tooth Decay Among U.S. Children and Adolescents - Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, United States, 2003-2009 and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 2005-2010," gave an overview of dental services prior to 2012, which is before or shortly after implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Tooth decay is the most common infectious disease among children, yet it's also nearly 100 percent preventable. Parents should explain to their kids in a simple way what cavities are, how they cause pain and why they want to avoid getting them. 

When we eat foods and drink beverages, particles and liquids stick to teeth. As food leftovers linger too long, dental plaque starts to form. If we don't brush and floss teeth to remove that plaque, it begins to burrow tiny holes in the wall of a tooth, which can be a painful experience.

Bacteria buildup in the mouth can also lead to gum inflammation, bad breath and other oral health issues. With a consistent oral hygiene regimen and frequent visits to the dentist, however, you can defend against such problems. The trouble is, not enough children are taking advantage of dental care. 

"Although preventive dental care is effective, the percentage of children using dental care is low," the authors of the report concluded.

Lack of dental care
Fewer than half of children age 21 and younger (44 percent) used dental care in 2009 and only 14 percent of children in the same demographic received a preventive dental service, such as a topical fluoride, sealants or both. 

The report noted that very young children (ages 3 and younger) were less likely than older children to use dental care. Families are encouraged to start a relationship with a dentist by the time their child is 1 year old to deter the development of tooth decay - it might even save parents money in dental costs in the long run. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child should be seen by a dentist every six months or on the basis of a child's individual needs. 

About 23 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have at least one primary tooth with untreated decay, and 20 percent of adolescents ages 12-19 have at least one permanent tooth with untreated decay, according to the CDC. What's more, roughly 1 in every 4 U.S. children does not have dental insurance, either private or public. 

Glass half full
Fortunately, there are ongoing changes in the U.S. health care system that could offer opportunities to improve the use of clinical preventive services among infants, children and adolescents. The ACA expanded insurance coverage, consumer protections and access to care for this age group. 

"Increased use of clinical preventive services could improve the health of infants, children, and teens and promote healthy lifestyles that will enable them to achieve their full potential," Dr. Stuart Shapira, chief medical officer and associate director for science in the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement.

Parents should be diligent about sending their kids to the dentist every six months, though it's very important for youngsters to take care of their own oral health, too. Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and rinsing with alcohol-free mouthwash can help ensure those pearly whites stay bright and clean for years to come. 

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