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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Oral Health

Oral health is an essential component of overall health.46 Good oral health requires both self-care and professional care. Regular dental visits provide an opportunity for prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of oral and craniofacial diseases and conditions. Routine dental visits are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry beginning at 1 year of age.47 Dental caries (cavities) is the single most common disease of childhood.46 Since the early 1970s, the prevalence of dental caries in permanent teeth has dramatically declined in school-age children due to prevention efforts such as community water fluoridation programs and increased use of toothpastes containing fluoride.46 Dental caries, however, remains a significant problem among some racial or ethnic groups and among children in poverty.

Indicator HC4.A: Percentage of children ages 5–17 with a dental visit in the past year by age and poverty status, 1999–2011
Percentage of children ages 5–17 with a dental visit in the past year by age and poverty status, 1999–2011

NOTE: From 1999 to 2000, children were identified as having a dental visit in the past year by asking parents "About how long has it been since your child last saw or talked to a dentist?" In 2001 and later years, the question was, "About how long has it been since your child last saw a dentist?" Parents were directed to include all types of dentists, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, and all other dental specialists, as well as dental hygienists.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey.

Indicator HC4.B: Percentage of children ages 2–4 with a dental visit in the past year by poverty status, 1999–2011
Percentage of children ages 2–4 with a dental visit in the past year by poverty status, 1999–2011

NOTE: From 1999 to 2000, children were identified as having a dental visit in the past year by asking parents "About how long has it been since your child last saw or talked to a dentist?" In 2001 and later years, the question was, "About how long has it been since your child last saw a dentist?" Parents were directed to include all types of dentists, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, and all other dental specialists, as well as dental hygienists.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey.

  • In 2011, about 87 percent of children ages 5–17 had a dental visit in the past year, up from 85 percent in 2010.
  • Among children in poverty, 86 percent of those ages 5–11 and 76 percent of those ages 12–17 had a dental visit in the past year, whereas 92 and 90 percent, respectively, of children with family incomes of 200 percent or more of the poverty level had a dental visit in the past year.
  • Sixty-six percent of uninsured children ages 5–11 and 55 percent of uninsured children ages 12–17 had a dental visit, whereas 92 and 90 percent, respectively, of children ages 5–11 and ages 12–17 with private health insurance had a dental visit.
  • In 2011, children ages 2–4 were less likely to have had a dental visit in the past year (58 percent) than children ages 5–11 (89 percent) and children ages 12–17 (85 percent). Forty-eight percent of uninsured children ages 2–4 had a dental visit, whereas 57 percent with private health insurance and 60 percent with public health insurance had a dental visit.

 

Indicator HC4.C: Percentage of children ages 5–17 with untreated dental caries (cavities) by age and poverty status, 1988–1994, 1999–2004, 2005–2008, and 2009–2010
Percentage of children ages 5–17 with untreated dental caries (cavities) by age and poverty status, 1988–1994, 1999–2004,  2005–2008, and 2009–2010

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • The percentage of children ages 5–17 with untreated dental caries declined over the past decade from 23 percent in 1999–2004 to 14 percent in 2009–2010.
  • In 2009–2010, about 16 percent of children ages 5–11 and 12 percent of children ages 12–17 had untreated dental caries.
  • The percentage of younger children (ages 5–11) with untreated dental caries declined from 20 percent in 2005–2008 to 16 percent in 2009–2010. For older children (ages 12–17) the percentage did not change between 2005–2008 and 2009–2010.
  • In 2009–2010, among families living in poverty, the percentage of both younger and older children with untreated dental caries was at least twice that of children in families with incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty level.
  • From 2005–2008 to 2009–2010, the percentage of children ages 5–11 with untreated dental caries declined regardless of family income. However, during this same period the percentage of children ages 12–17 with untreated dental caries did not change or increase depending upon family income.
  • Among Black, non-Hispanic children ages 5–11 the percentage of untreated caries decreased from 2005–2008 to 2009–2010 (26 and 18 percent, respectively). However, untreated caries increased for Black, non-Hispanic children ages 12–17 during the same period (17 and 24 percent, respectively).

table icon HC4.A/B HTML Table, HC4.C HTML Table

46 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

47 American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Guideline on periodicity of examination, preventive dental services, anticipatory guidance, and oral treatment for children. Pediatric Dentistry 2009; 31(special issue): 118–25.