A recent study by The PEW Charitable Trusts shares good news that children and adolescents in the United States have made substantial oral health gains in recent years. Specifically, the prevalence of decay and untreated decay in primary teeth has decreased for two to five-year-olds. However, the oral health equity gap continues to widen between families with lower to higher incomes and when considering race. According to CDPHE’s most recent Basic Screening Survey, here in Colorado, black and Hispanic children have worse oral health outcomes than white children. Hispanic kindergarten students had a 18.5% rate of untreated decay (compared with 13.8% of white students). Black third grade students had a 25% untreated decay burden (compared with 12.5% of white students). Additionally, we know based on 2019 CHAS data that children under five are the least likely to visit the dentist and just 59.2% had an appointment in the past year. It’s clear that oral health falls to the bottom of the priority list, especially when challenges families face are exacerbated by lack of access to adequate housing, employment, food, safety, income, transportation, and other resources. Bringing oral health services to where kids live, learn, and play is important.
Every Child Deserves a Healthy Smile
Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation champions the outreach of community grant partners working to ensure that every child can have a healthy mouth regardless of life circumstances. Healthy Child Care Colorado is training early childhood professionals across Colorado in the Cavity Free Kids curriculum and providing coaching on incorporating tooth brushing into the classroom and reinforcing good oral health habits at home through blossoming partnerships with home visitation organizations such as Parent Possible. Both early childhood professionals and parents have been thrilled with how excited children get about toothbrushing by using some simple best practices that can be reinforced both in the classroom and at home. One early childhood professional shared that she has seen a positive oral health impact in a child’s mouth simply by having a child brush or rinse with water after snack time.
Barriers still exist for proper oral health in children
While there is promising data to support gains in pediatric oral health and exceptional work being done by community partners, let’s remember that our children – specifically children of color and those in families with low incomes – continue to face barriers to achieving optimal oral health. Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation is committed to addressing oral health inequities and supporting community-based solutions that elevate the well-being of all Coloradans. Learn more at: https://www.deltadentalcofoundation.org/.