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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

Oral Health

Oral health is an essential component of overall health.33 Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions among children. If untreated, decay may cause pain, infection, and problems with eating, speaking, and concentrating. Regular dental visits provide an opportunity for prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of tooth decay and other oral and craniofacial diseases and conditions.33 Low-income and minority children are at the greatest risk of inadequate access to oral health care.34, 35 The prevalence of untreated tooth decay varies by race and ethnicity.

Figure 11: Percentage of children and adolescents ages 5–17 with a dental visit in the past year by age and race and Hispanic origin, 1999–2000 and 2013–2014
Percentage of children and adolescents ages 5–17 with a dental visit in the past year by age and race and Hispanic origin, 1999–2000 and 2013–2014

NOTE: In 1999–2000, children were identified as having a dental visit in the past year by asking respondents, "About how long has it been since your child last saw or talked to a dentist?" In 2013–2014, the question was "About how long has it been since your child last saw a dentist?" Respondents were instructed to include all types of dentists, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, and all other dental specialists, as well as dental hygienists. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and combined for reporting according to 1997 Office of Management and Budget Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity.

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

  • During 2013–2014, 89 percent of children ages 5–11 had a dental visit in the past year, an 8 percentage point increase from 1999–2000. During 2013–2014, 87 percent of adolescents ages 12–17 had a dental visit in the past year, a 7 percentage point increase from 1999–2000.
  • Between 1999–2000 and 2013–2014, the percentage of children and adolescents with a dental visit in the past year increased for all racial and ethnic groups, except Asian, non-Hispanic children and adolescents.
  • Among children in 2013–2014, White, non-Hispanic children (90 percent) were more likely to have had a dental visit in the past year than Black, non-Hispanic (88 percent) and Hispanic (87 percent) children. The percentages of dental visits in the past year for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic (93 percent) and Asian, non-Hispanic (87 percent) children were not different from those of other racial and ethnic groups.
  • Among adolescents in 2013–2014, White, non-Hispanic adolescents (90 percent) were more likely to have had a dental visit in the past year than Black, non-Hispanic (84 percent); Asian, non-Hispanic (84 percent); and Hispanic (81 percent) adolescents. The percentage of dental visits in the past year for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic adolescents (89 percent) was not significantly different from other racial and ethnic groups.

table icon HC4A/B Brief HTML Table

33 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Oral Health. (2014). Children's oral health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/children_adults/child.htm

34 Flores, G., & Tomany-Korman, S. C. (2008). Racial and ethnic disparities in medical and dental health, access to care, and use of services in U.S. children. Pediatrics 121(2): e286–e298. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-1243

35 General Accountability Office. (2000). Oral health: Dental disease is a chronic problem among low-income populations (Report No. GAO/HEHS-00-72). Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/new.items/he00072.pdf