Researchers have discovered the statistical facts behind our progress against the “hidden epidemic” of untreated caries (tooth decay) in American children.
In spite of the best efforts of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA,) more than 12 million children suffered from untreated coronal caries between 2011 and 2014. Here at Dentistry for Children, we have investigated the validity of this astonishing statistic.
The recently completed research was conducted by Niodita Gupta, MD, MPH, Ph.D. Dr. Gupta is a research scientist with the ADA Health Policy Institute.
The Decayed and Painful Truth of the Story of 12 Million US Children
He recently explained how his study reflects the status quo of demographic and socioeconomic factors associated with untreated decay. Dr. Gupta stated, “Demographic factors such as age, socioeconomic factors such as family income level, access to care, and utilization of care were significantly associated with untreated caries among children.”
Fearsome Facts and Trends Behind the Barriers to Treatment for Untreated Caries
According to Dr. Gupta and his team, both financial and nonfinancial barriers increased the possibility a child would suffer from lack of dental treatment.
In 2010, the ACA established children’s dental care as an essential health benefit. Therefore, the researchers wanted to see if the ACA ruling made any effect on “the rate of untreated caries in children.”
A Giant Paper Chase To Prove A Point
They researched a mountain of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2011 to 2014. Those were good, strong surveys validly conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The surveys culminated in reliable information concerning the health status of Americans, young and old. The research team discovered more than 12 million children had untreated coronal caries between 2011 and 2014. “Family income level, financial and non-financial barriers and dental visits were all significantly associated with the likelihood of a child experiencing untreated decay.”
Non-Financial Shockers Behind Untreated Caries
Of course, some families were existing at the poverty level. In some cases, there may have been simply too much month at the end of the money. Untreated dental difficulties can be a side effect
of a stretched budget.
However, there were ample types of non-financial causes lurking behind the pain of untreated tooth decay:
1. The family could not find convenient appointment times for the children.
2. Parents claimed to be simply too busy to maintain regular preventative dental visits.
3. Distance and transportation time played a critical roll in the effort to prevent or treat caries.
4. Fear of dentistry caused many families to avoid their appointments and increased the numbers of untreated caries cases.
The Scientists Seek Solutions for Untreated Caries Resulting from the above Four Parental Problems
“Interventions such as school-based sealant programs may help address nonfinancial barriers” With the dentist coming to children, “travel and time-related barriers” are eliminated. Read more about dental sealants at our former report.
Only the future can prove them to be correct.
The Toothsome Take-Away
It’s interesting to note that, on the one hand, the children’s group differences. One group did not visit the dentist regularly because of the income level of the family. These children were twice as likely to have untreated caries as those who enjoyed regular check-ups.
However, here is the shocking survey truth. The other children’s group faced non-financial barriers. And they were three times more likely to have untreated caries than those who had no such barriers. This statistic is why we named the barriers “Four Terrible Trends in the title of this blog.”
At Dentistry for Children, we are proud to see the respect many of our young patients have for their caries-free mouths. And their oral hygiene was also a source of pride. In fact, we are sometimes surprised. We invest our hopes in their good habits. And we hope, they will raise children in a world free of the caries epidemic.