More than 1 in 5 Kids Miss Annual Preventative Dental Care
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 1–17 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 2019–2020 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 2019–2020. 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 2019–2020. 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 2016–2017. The rate of U.S. kids receiving preventative dental care also remained at 80% from 2016–2017 to 2018–2019, then dropped slightly to 78% in 2019–2020. 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 2019–2020.
The 2019–2020 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
- Access all health data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center.
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also curates a list of resources on children’s oral health as well as policies and recommendations.