Once a child's first baby tooth erupts, developing tooth decay and cavities become a real risk. According to statistics from National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42 percent of American children aged 2 to 11 have had cavities and 59 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have gotten dental caries in their permanent teeth. Despite being a preventable condition, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in both children and adults.
Data from the most recent (1999-2004) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, reveals that the overall levels of both treated and untreated dental cavities have declined sine the 1970s. However, some demographic groups have not experienced a huge retraction in the disease, meaning some children are at greater risk for developing dental caries than others. While some parents may believe that developing dental caries is a rite of passage for growing boys and girls, it does not have to be. Proper oral care can minimize the chances of the disease taking root, even in the children most at risk for developing the condition.
The poverty threshold level in America is defined as earning as less than $21,954 for a family of four and $10,956 for an individual (2009, Office of Management and Budget). In 2009, it was reported that children under age 18 account for 20.7 percent of people living in households suffering from the condition. That way of life has numerous effects on children and a decline in dental health and an increase in cavities is just one of them.
Statistics (2001-2004) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have suggested that the nationsâ€™ poorest children had more untreated counterparts than their counterparts with more means. For those aged 2 to 5 and living below the poverty limit, 26.1 percent of them had untreated dental caries while 12.1 percent of their same aged counterparts living in wealthier households had the condition. The same held true for children aged 6 to 19; 31.5 percent of them living below the poverty limit had the disease while only 14.7 of those in financially stable households had tooth decay.
Poverty is not the only factor that can negatively impact dental health. According to the CDC "Black, non-Hispanic children and Hispanic children of Mexican origin had significantly higher percentages of untreated cavities than white, non-Hispanic children." The 2001-2004 data indicates that within the 2 to 5 year age bracket, 24.2 percent of black and non-Hispanic children and 29.2 percent of Hispanic children (of Mexican origin) had untreated cavities while white children had significantly lower levels at 14.5 percent. The same balance was seen in adolescents aged 6 to19; untreated dental caries were present in 28.1 percent of black, non-Hispanic children, 30.6 percent of Hispanic children and 19.4 percent of white kids.
Overall, the findings determined that sex did not play a significant factor in levels of tooth decay for those under age 19. However adolescents had higher levels of cavities then the younger children in the study.
Despite the grim statistics, the great news is that children, regardless of their demographics, can improve their odds of developing the disease by brushing and flossing on a daily basis, eating a nutritious diet, drinking water and seeking professional dental exams and dental treatments administered by a dentist.
Health care reform is working towards making dental care more accessible to kids living below the poverty line. The Pediatric Dental Benefit is part of the bill that was signed into law by President Barack Obama and will automatically provide children aged 21 and below with complimentary basic oral health care.
For individuals lucky enough not to have to rely on the government for their basic dental care needs, 1-800-DENTIST can make finding a skilled dental care practitioner fast and easy. Parents looking for either a general dentist or family dentistry expert to improve the oral health of their children can call us 24/7 and receive the contact information of a vetted dentist, up to the task of serving the dental health needs of their family and loved ones.