Millions of children in the U.S. go without dental care every year. The main reason being that they cannot afford it. These children don't get routine exams, or any other needed dental care. In many cases they also don't have the needed supplies (i.e. toothpaste and toothbrushes) to take care of their teeth at home, or they haven't been educated properly on how to do it. This leads to untreated dental problems like tooth decay (cavities), gum disease, tooth fractures, etc. Sometimes, people who go untreated by a dentist end up going to the ER when the problem becomes more serious.
"More than 18 million low-income children went without dental care, including routine exams, in 2014."
Why Is Dental Care Important?
As soon as babies' teeth start coming in, parents should start taking their children to the dentists. Going to the dentist for regular exams will make sure that your children's teeth are healthy. Dentists also treat cavities, do sealants, educate the child on how to brush their teeth, and much more. Getting cavities and other dental problems treated as early as possible is very important. Even though they're baby teeth, if they get damaged, they can later affect permanent teeth negatively. So taking care of children's teeth starting at a young age is very important. But it's not just the dentist's job. At home parents should brush their children's teeth and teach them how to do it themselves when they're old enough. Doing this will teach them the importance of oral hygiene and will install in them a regular routine for brushing their teeth. This is essential for long term good oral health. Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease, decay, and tooth loss, among other things. Also, inflammation in the mouth due to gum disease can lead to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's, diabetes, and heart disease.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 20% of kids between the ages of two and 19 have cavities that have not been treated."
Current Work Being Done
To help with this problem there are things like Medicaid, free or low-cost dental care organizations, and free education programs. One provision for low-income students that is effective is school based sealant programs. These are programs that provide sealants for students at their school for a reduced price. This is very effective at reaching low-income students who might otherwise not be getting any dental treatment. These programs work by targeting school with a higher percentage of low-income students, so they reach those that need them the most.
"School-age children without sealants have almost 3 times more cavities than those with sealants."
Organizations that provide free or reduced price dental care are also very helpful. One such organization is Sarrell Dental. This non-profit organization provides low-cost dental care for low-income families with Medicaid and CHIP. It is founded in Anniston, Alabama, but has since opened offices in 17 other cities. Sarrell also has a "Dental Bus" which travels to daycares and schools throughout the state providing dental care. To learn more about them, visit their website, sarrelldental.org. Another great organization is Care Harbor. They provide free health care to the uninsured, underinsured, and at risk. They provide medical, visual, and dental care for anyone who needs it. To learn more about them, visit careharbor.org. One more organization is Children's Healthy Smile Project. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to improving children's dental health. They provide children with "smile kits", which contain a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and a kids educational booklet on how to brush their teeth. They also provide dental booklets to parents so they can learn how to care for their children's teeth. Along with providing resources, they also visit headstarts to teach children about dental health, and to get them more interested in it.