Despite the advances in oral health science and the growing capacity of dental providers to prevent common pediatric diseases, dental caries (tooth decay) has become the most prevalent unmet health care need among American children. Consider these facts:
- Dental caries (tooth decay) is the single most common chronic childhood disease -- five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Poor children suffer twice as much dental caries as their more affluent peers;
- More than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness. Poor children suffer nearly 12 times more restricted activity-days than children from higher-income families;
- Over one third of the U.S. population (100 million people) are without community water fluoridation, and community-based preventive programs are unavailable to substantial portions of the underserved population;
- The nation's supply of dental professionals is on the decline, raising concern about the capability of the dental workforce to meet the emerging demands of our communities and provide required services efficiently;
- Twenty-five percent of poor and minority children never visit a dentist before entering kindergarten. Fewer than one in five Medicaid-covered children ever receive a single dental visit;
- Children from families without dental insurance are three times more likely to have dental needs than children with either public or private insurance. Uninsured children are 2.5 times less likely than insured children to receive dental care.