Low Income Children Deserve Better Access to Dental Care

Posted & filed under Children's Oral Health and Fluoride, Fluoride and Public Health, Fluoride, Oral Health, and Access to Care.

fluoride is good for children's teethCalls to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, risk being realized come January 2017, when Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress take their seats. Much remains to be seen, but one thing that is unlikely to change much or change soon is unmet need.

Children from families with low incomes, especially those in Black, Latino and Native communities, experience the highest rates of dental disease and untreated tooth decay in the U.S. The numbers are so great that public health professionals consider this an epidemic.

Former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin described it this way in Oral Health: The Silent Epidemic, published in 2010. “The silent epidemic of oral diseases disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities, especially children, the elderly, and racial/ethnic minority groups.” That was six years ago.

This week, Jonathan Fielding, MD, distinguished professor of public health and pediatrics at UCLA, contributed a piece to called Low Income Children Deserve Better Access to Dental Care to U.S. News & World Report, saying much the same thing, and more. He offers these solutions.

First, expand access to community water fluoridation because it reduces cavities in children and adults by about 25%.

Second, apply cavity-reducing materials like fluoride varnish and dental sealants, directly to primary and permanent teeth.

Third, address the maldistribution of dental providers and increase the number who accept Medicaid patients.

Finally, expand dental care under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and CHIP.

Levels of dental disease and unmet treatment needs remain too high.  Regardless of whether dental coverage expands or contracts, prevention is more important than ever. As we know, an ounce of it is worth a pound of cure.