Study Finds Underprivileged​ Kids Receiving Less Dental Treatment

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Children living in economically disadvantaged homes in the U.S. received more preventative dental care but less overall treatment in 2013, according to a report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on children participating in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid.

CHIP and Medicaid play a significant role in helping children from low-income families have healthcare coverage and access to needed benefits and other needed medical services. Combined, the two programs provide over 45 millions kids – equating to more than 1 out of every 3 kids in the U.S. – with access to health care. All children participating in CHIP and Medicaid receive coverage for oral health care.

However, despite the progress made in recent years in providing kids with access to dental care, tooth decay and cavities remain the most common chronic disease afflicting U.S. children, detailed the 2014 Annual Report on the Quality of Care for Children in Medicaid and CHIP. Tooth decay continues to rank as a growing concern according to the report, as the prevalence of tooth decay increased 15 percent between 1988 and 1994 and again between 1999 and 2004 among children between the ages of 2 to 5. The report also estimates that untreated cases of tooth decay now affect 19.5 percent of kids between the ages of 2 to 5 and 23 percent of kids between the ages of 6 to 9.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has worked in conjuncture with state and federal agencies, the medical and dental provider communities, and other prominent partners to improve children’s access to oral care, stated the report. Launched in 2010, the CMS’s Oral Health Initiative stated two prominent goals: a 10 percent improvement in the number of children who had access to preventative dental care, and a 10 percent increase in the number of children between the ages of 6 to 9 who receive dental sealants on permanent molars.

More Preventative Care, Less Treatment

Nearly 48 percent of kids between the ages of 1 to 20 underwent at least one preventive dental treatment – such as dental sealant or the application of topical fluoride – and nearly 23 percent received at least one dental repair treatment – such as oral restorations – in 2013, according to the report. This increased the rate of preventative dental care from 45 to 48 percent when compared to 2011, but the rate for dental treatment actually declined slightly from 24 to 23 percent during this same time period.

Children living in low-income households – families with incomes 100 percent below the federal poverty guideline – suffered from higher rates of untreated tooth decay when compared to kids living in higher-income households.

Efforts For Improvement

On the state level, a lot of effort in the past decade has resulted in improved dental care access for kids enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid. Between 2007 and 2011, nearly half of all states achieved a 10 percent increase in the number of children who received a preventive dental service during the year. Between 2011 and 2012, 15 states had at least an additional 2 percent improvement.

So while the report does show that children have better access to dental care, many are still failing to receive the kind of preventive treatment needed to help them enjoy healthy teeth for a lifetime. To increase the number of kids receiving preventive dental treatments and repairs, the report stressed better communication between dentists and parents about the need for further treatment during dental exams that would lead to a better understanding of the long-term health care needs of their children.

Newberg Family Dental is here to answer any questions you have about your child’s dental care. Call us today for an appointment!

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