Health Services Financing and Utilization
In a 2000 report on oral health, the Surgeon General
identified dental caries (tooth decay) as the single most common
chronic disease among children in the United States. This is a preventable
health problem that can significantly affect children’s health,
ability to concentrate in school, and quality of life, and is more
common in children of low-income families.
To promote good oral hygiene, the American Dental
Association recommends that children have their first dental checkup
within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth and no later
than 12 months of age. In Federal Fiscal Year 2004, only 26.5 percent
of children eligible for services under the Medicaid Early and Periodic
Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) program received a
preventive dental service.
In 2004, 72.3 percent of children had seen a dentist
in the past year. Frequency of dental visits among children varies
by family income and race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic White children
between the ages of 1 and 18 years were most likely to have visited
a dentist or other dental specialist within the past year (76.9
percent), while Hispanic children were least likely (62.3 percent).
Children with family incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty
level were more likely (78.1 percent) to have seen a dentist in
the past year than children living with family incomes below 200
percent of the poverty level (63.3 percent).