Tooth decay continues to be the single most common chronic disease among U.S. children. This problem persists despite the fact that it is overwhelmingly preventable through early and consistent family interventions. Decay is five times more common than asthma, and 80% of dental disease is found in only one-quarter of the children. Low-income children are much more likely to suffer this disease but are also much less likely to obtain dental care.
Three times more U.S. children are in need of dental services than medical services, yet children with public insurance are only one-quarter as likely to see a dentist as they are to see a physician. More than twice as many children lack dental insurance as lack medical insurance. Across the country an estimated 4 to 5 million children have dental problems severe enough to wake up with a toothache—or fail to sleep because of one.
James J. Crall, DDS, ScD and Burton L. Edelstein, DDS, MPH