Low-Income Children Need Access to Oral Health Care

Health

Many children face limited access to our nation’s health care system. On top of that, access to oral health care is even more scarce, particularly for low-income children.

This May, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in children, “despite the abundance of scientific evidence demonstrating that it can be prevented.”

It has been 11 years since Deamonte Driver passed away from preventable tooth decay when he was 12-year old. Why is it, then, that in the last 11 years we have not done much to reduce the effects of tooth decay for our most vulnerable children?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 80 percent of all tooth decay, within the entire U.S. population, occurs in 20-25 percent of children, most of whom live in poor or low-income households. The U.S. Surgeon General estimated that nearly 5 million children need acute dental care, but public programs for children have not reached many of them. These children are more likely to live in low-income families and do not have resources to pay for oral health services.

The problem of inadequate oral health care for low-income kids has two roots: Medicaid and CHIP offer limited coverage for these health care services, and most dentists do not accept these types of insurance. The dental community and Congress need to ensure that all children have access to quality dental services.