For decades, tooth decay has ranked as the leading chronic illness for school-aged children in the U.S. When left untreated, tooth decay can cause a variety of problems for kids that range from health problems such as crooked or crowded teeth to delayed academic development due to an inability to focus and toothaches that cause them to miss school.
Despite this decades long trend, hope that advances are being made against the increased prevalence of tooth decay received a much needed boost. In a recent announcement, the American Dental Association has released details of preliminary data findings that suggest a downward trend in cases of early childhood tooth decay in the U.S. and indicates progress in ensuring that children are finally receiving much needed dental care.
According to researchers with the ADA, this preliminary analysis could indicate the emergence of a promising trend, as researchers are encouraged that it shows the prevalence of untreated tooth decay as declining in children. The number of children visiting the dentists using Dental Medicaid have been on the rise and more children are seeing the dentist overall, according to the report. ADA officials hope this trend continues, and that the dental health community builds on the current momentum in helping children prevent and combat dental disease.
Data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a decades-long trend in the treatment of tooth decay in preschool-aged children, suggesting a clear shift in untreated oral disease in the U.S. among children between the ages of 2 to 5. This analysis comes from a 2011-2012 review conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results of the study were presented in advance of an expected full report from the CDC that will provide a full range of data covering 2011 to 2014 regarding children’s oral health.
While the ADA continues to await the complete data set offered by the CDC study, the organization plans to continue promoting the importance of children’s oral health and to stress the need to reduce the prevalence of untreated decay. As part of the ADA’s Action for Dental Health program, dentists across the U.S. participate in delivering disease prevention and dental health education to communities, providing dental treatment to individuals suffering from untreated oral disease and fight for improved dental health protections available under Medicaid.
As an example of the difference the program has already made, the ADA highlights that from 2000 to 2010 the number of children from low-income households that received dental care rose in 47 states, due primarily to the expansion of State Children’s Health Insurance Programs and Medicaid, both of which mandate children’s dental benefits. Additionally, the ADA’s Community Dental Health Coordinators are helping people connect to community public health resources and dentists willing to provide care for those in need.