Teeth First! Teeth First!

Progress in the Fight Against Dental Decay

As dental or health care professional who cares for children, you encourage early dental visits, connect children with a dental home, and work to promote tooth-healthy behaviors at home. But are your efforts working? A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control suggests that progress is being made, but there's still a long way to go.

The data, which comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), suggests that the percentage of children who have untreated tooth decay has decreased. The survey comes from a large sample of national health trends and shows that during 2011-2012, 23% of children ages 2 to 5 had existing cavities. The great news here is that this number is down from 28% from the years 1999-2004.

Fewer children now experience pain and untreated cavities, but the fact that the data only reflects two years may mean that it is not statistically significant. However, improvement of any kind is encouraging news and we should take it to mean that our collective work in emphasizing the importance of preventive care has begun to move the needle in the right direction.

Part of the success may be because there are more pediatric dentists today than ever, and more pediatricians are encouraging parents to bring their children to a dentist by age one. Also, by the end of the 2012 federal fiscal year, almost half of children and youth ages 1 to 20 with Medicaid coverage were reported to have received dental care. That is up from only 29% during 2000.

Longer and more comprehensive surveys are planned to see if the progress continues, but this news is encouraging and could truly mean that the efforts of the health care community are paying off. Keep up the good work and continue to promote early dental visits, help children establish a dental home, and encourage tooth-friendly habits and behaviors. This is one fight that CAN be won!

TeethFirst! Creating healthy smiles for a lifetime.