Daily Archives: September 15, 2014

Dental care in the United States

Can government prevent tooth decay? No, only people can.

Griffin SO, Barker LK, Wei L, Li CH, Albuquerque MS, Gooch BF. Use of dental care and effective preventive services in preventing tooth decay among u.s. Children and adolescents — medical expenditure panel survey, United States, 2003–2009 and national health and nutrition examination survey, United States, 2005–2010. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2014 Sep 12;63:54-60.

This figure is a line graph that presents the percentage of children receiving at least one service within the past year in two categories: 1) preventive, and 2) any during 2003-2009.


Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions among children. Approximately 23% of children aged 2-11 years have at least one primary tooth with untreated decay and 20% of adolescents aged 12-19 years have at least one permanent tooth with untreated decay. Tooth decay, if left untreated, can cause pain and infection, and can lead to problems with eating, speaking, and learning. Risk factors for tooth decay include recent history of cavities, low fluoride exposure, and living in a low-income household. Prevalence of untreated decay in primary or permanent teeth among children from lower-income households is more than twice that among children from higher-income households. Prevalence of untreated tooth decay is also higher among Mexican-American children and non-Hispanic black children than among white non-Hispanic children. By age 15, approximately 60% of all adolescents will have experienced tooth decay. An estimated 51.7 million school hours are missed annually by school-aged children because of a dental problem or visit.

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