More than 1 in 5 Kids Miss Annual Preventative Dental Care

Posted February 13, 2023, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A male dentist smiles while showing a young girl how to properly brush her teeth — using a handheld dental model and a toothbrush.

Feb­ru­ary is Nation­al Children’s Den­tal Health Month, and accord­ing to recent­ly updat­ed data in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Cen­ter, 78% of U.S. chil­dren ages 117 received pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal care in the past year. This means that more than 20% of kids went with­out pre­ven­ta­tive care. Sim­i­lar­ly, more than 1 in 5 kids have teeth that are not in very good or excel­lent con­di­tion. These data were report­ed by a par­ent or care­giv­er in the 20192020 Nation­al Sur­vey of Children’s Health.

Why Den­tal Health Matters

Good oral health is crit­i­cal, as cav­i­ties are a com­mon chron­ic dis­ease among chil­dren, and untreat­ed den­tal prob­lems can lead to pain, dif­fi­cul­ty eat­ing, oth­er health con­di­tions and chal­lenges in school. Low-income chil­dren are at an increased risk of hav­ing untreat­ed cav­i­ties com­pared with high­er-income kids. Pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal vis­its, such as check-ups and den­tal clean­ings, are essen­tial in order to main­tain oral health and address den­tal prob­lems before they become more serious.

State-Lev­el Dif­fer­ences in Children’s Den­tal Care

Near­ly 9 in 10 chil­dren received annu­al pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal vis­its in Hawaii (86%), Con­necti­cut (85%) and Mass­a­chu­setts (85%) — the high­est fig­ures of all states in 20192020. The low­est rates of pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal care were found in Neva­da (72%), Flori­da (72%) and Mis­souri (73%), with more than 1 in 4 kids miss­ing annu­al pre­ven­ta­tive care in each state.

Chil­dren were least like­ly to have teeth in excel­lent or very good con­di­tion in Arkansas (72%), New Mex­i­co (73%), Neva­da (73%), Delaware (74%) and Cal­i­for­nia (74%) — the low­est fig­ures in 20192020. Con­verse­ly, the fol­low­ing five states had the high­est shares of kids with teeth in excel­lent or very good con­di­tion: New Hamp­shire (84%), Con­necti­cut (83%), Iowa (83%), Ver­mont (83%) and South Dako­ta (83%).

Children’s Den­tal Health Trends Over Time

At the nation­al lev­el, the share of kids with excel­lent or very good teeth has been steady, at 78% or 79%, since 20162017. The rate of U.S. kids receiv­ing pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal care also remained at 80% from 20162017 to 20182019, then dropped slight­ly to 78% in 20192020. This decline is reflect­ed at the state lev­el as well, with 39 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., see­ing a decrease in pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal care in 20192020.

The 20192020 decrease in children’s pre­ven­ta­tive den­tal care may be relat­ed to the impact of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic in 2020, as mul­ti­ple sur­veys have found that many par­ents had a hard­er time get­ting den­tal care and med­ical care dur­ing the pandemic.

More Health Data and Den­tal Health Resources

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