Children's Oral Health Disparities
The oral health of Americans has improved in recent years, yet considerable gaps in the provision of dental care remain, according to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report in 2000. The report states that oral health is essential to the general health and well-being of all Americans. There is a silent epidemic of oral diseases affecting our most vulnerable citizens: poor children, the elderly, and many members of racial and ethnic minority groups. The report served as a wake-up call against this silence and a call to action for health professionals, policymakers, community leaders, insurance companies, the public and private business.
During the 2004-2005 school year, the Dental Health Foundation surveyed more than 2?,000 California children in kindergarten or third grade in nearly 200 randomly selected schools located across the state.2 They found that by the third grade, more than 70 percent of the children had a history of tooth decay; at any given moment, more than a quarter of the children had untreated tooth decay; and some 4 percent of the kids were sitting in the classroom in pain or suffering from an abscess. The problem is worse for the poor, Hispanics, other ethnic minorities, and for the uninsured. Barriers to dental care, including parental financial difficulties or a lack of dental insurance, can have a profound impact on their children's dental health. About one-third of low-income children have untreated decay compared to about one-fifth of higher income children.
Oral diseases are cumulative and progressive over time and can affect lives in many ways. Oral diseases can limit the foods one eats, affects one's appearance, and cause significant pain and discomfort. Oral health is also an integral part of overall health and may lead to systemic diseases (click here to read the entire article)