How Poverty Affects Children's Dental Care
Dental problems are particularly concerning among low-income children, because these children are less likely to have dental insurance and access to regular, preventative dental care.
Why It Matters
Less access and no insurance can mean poorer care for kids, and if dental disease is not treated early, it can result in the need for more serious and expensive interventions later. Untreated dental problems in children also can have wide-ranging effects -- poor academic performance, behavior problems because of the pain, problems with chewing or speaking, and reduced self-esteem.
How Children Are Faring
Post-recession data for dental care are not yet available; this website will be updated as these data are released. However, data from 2007 can provide a foundation for our understanding of this issue.
Could Not Afford Needed Dental Care, Children Under Age 18: 2007
Region Result California 6% of children under age 18 So. Cal. Average 7% So. Cal. Range 4% (Ventura) – 13% (Santa Barbara)
Percent of Children Ages 2-17 Who Have Never Been to the Dentist: 2007
Region Result California 13% So. Ca. Average 13% So. Cal. Range 11.5% (San Diego) – 19% (Santa Barbara) See slideshow
Note: California figures and Southern California ranges are presented as reported in the original data source. Southern California averages, however, have been calculated. Specifically, population estimates for children within the same age range as the original indicator within each county, and Southern California as a whole, were used to create the weighted averages presented. See slideshow for more details about the data source.
What First 5s Are Doing
First 5 commissions have focused on oral health education as well as preventative and restorative services for young children:
Riverside funded the creation of a dental clinic and also funds screening, parent and child education and treatment services through local dentists, and is provides dental services for special needs children through Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. In addition, Riverside's Building Healthy Smiles Program utilizes AmeriCorps volunteers to educate preschool children in the east county area.
Orange funds prevention and treatment services as well as programs to increase access to pediatric dental care. Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County provides preventive urgent and operative dental care for children at five community dental clinics.
San Bernardino provides dental health screenings and education for nearly 20,000 children annually. When indicated, children receive dental treatments to address decay.
LA's Oral Health and Nutrition Expansion and Enhancement Project establishes a dental home for underserved children. The program provides direct preventive services and provides restorative treatment to those that need it.
Ventura invests in prevention and treatment services to communities throughout the county at clinics and with mobile units. This program provides education and support for medical providers and auxlliary staff to facilitate application of fluoride varnish in the medical setting and the importance of childhood oral health.
San Diego provides dental checkups, treatment, and referrals for children under age 5 and for pregnant women. San Diego has also invested in community water fluoridation services.
Santa Barbara promotes the importance of maintaining and utilizing a dental home through education and the enrollment of children in Medi-Cal, Healthy Children or the County's own Healthy Kids Program for those children who do not meet the eligibility requirements of either of the two previous programs.