Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

kidsdata advisory

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | May 18, 2016

Nine Percent of Young CA Children Have Never Seen a Dentist

On the heels of the Little Hoover Commission’s scathing report on Denti-Cal, the dental health care program for 13 million low-income Californians, Kidsdata now offers the latest data on the Length of Time Since Last Dental Visit for kids in California. The data come from the California Health Interview Survey and are now available to view and visualize on Kidsdata.

The data show that in 2013-2014, nine percent of children ages 2-11 had never had a dental visit. The counties with the highest percent of young children who had never visited a dentist were San Joaquin County at 28 percent, Shasta County at 19 percent, and Fresno County at 18 percent. In over 12 additional counties, at least 10 percent of children hadn't visited a dentist, including Santa Clara County, Sacramento County, and Los Angeles County.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease (PDF) among children ages 6-18. Untreated dental problems, such as cavities and gum disease, can affect a child’s health and quality of life by causing pain, nutritional and sleep problems, impaired concentration, and increased school absences, as well as lost work hours for parents. If dental disease is not treated early, it can result in more serious and expensive intervention later on.

Tooth decay and other oral diseases disproportionately affect low-income children, children of color, and uninsured children. For this reason, the federal government has set a public health goal focused on improving access to preventive dental services for low-income children. The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes dental health care for children in the essential health benefits that must be covered by all qualified health insurance plans, a major step forward in ensuring access to oral health care for children.

According to experts, policy options that could influence children’s dental health include: increasing reimbursement rates for dental providers under public insurance programs, creating incentives for them to treat low-income children; increasing the number of pediatric dentists where Medi-Cal patients live; setting pediatric dental benefits under ACA at affordable rates to allow low-income families to access the services; reinstating state support for children’s dental disease prevention (PDF); and ensuring that all communities have fluoridated drinking water, as evidence suggests that it reduces cavities among children.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

Center for Oral Health

Children's Dental Health Project

Dental Care Access for Children in California: Institutionalized Inequality, Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health

Oral Health Care in CSHCN: State Medicaid Policy Considerations, Pediatrics

Racial Disparity Trends in Children’s Dental Visits: US National Health Interview Survey, 1964–2010, Pediatrics

Kidsdata Tip

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Length of Time Since Last Dental Visit
Years: 2013-2014
Never had a dental visit

Length of Time Since Last Dental Visit Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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