Minority Youth Less Likely To Receive Annual Dental Checkups, AHRQ Data Indicate
Fewer than half of U.S. children under age 20 visit a dentist at least once annually, and even fewer minority youths receive regular dental checkups, according to the most recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
According to AHRQ, 34% of black youths and 33% of Hispanic youths visited a dentist annually in 2004, compared with 53% of white youths. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children receive at least two dental checkups annually. In addition, 31% of those from poorer families made such visits, compared with 47% of children from middle-income families and 62% of those with higher incomes.
Some experts say the disparities are related to a shortage of dentists who treat Medicaid beneficiaries, as well as families' lack of access to health insurance and adequate dental coverage.
Arnold Rosenheck, assistant dean of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey Dental School, said, "Access to care, especially among people who don't have a lot of funds or who lack insurance, is a major issue and the need is great." Cavan Brunsden, a pediatric dentist and state chair of the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile, said, "Insurance is definitely a factor, but I also believe education has a lot to do with the situation." Rosenheck added that once parents realize the importance of dental care, they would be more likely to ensure their children receive annual checkups (Stewart, Newark Star-Ledger, 11/11).