The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) is bringing the importance of the age 1 dental visit to the forefront with an update of its 2014 “State of Little Teeth Report.” Despite an overall decrease in the prevalence of caries in pediatric populations, the report suggests there is room for improvement and provides solutions from oral health care leaders.
The updated report emphasizes the benefits of the age 1 dental visit. Despite parents’ and caregivers’ growing awareness of the importance of children’s oral health, nearly three-quarters of U.S. parents continue to delay the first appointment. Some parents/caregivers believe a child’s first dental visit should occur by age 4. The AAPD recommends the first visit take place when the first tooth erupts, and no later than the child’s first birthday.
“The good news is more children are visiting the dentist. Nearly five in 10 children had a dental visit in 2015, an increase from four in 10 children in 1996,” says AAPD President Joseph Castellano, DDS.
The greatest growth was seen in low-income children. As dental care utilization among children covered by public insurance increased from 35% in 2005 to 50% in 2016, the gap narrowed between visits from lower- and higher-income families. As a result, pediatric and general dentists have an expanded opportunity to educate children and parents/caregivers not reached before due to financial disparities, Castellano explains.
But there’s still work to be done, as data from 2015–2016 show that caries affects one in five children under the age of 5, about half of children ages 6 to 11, and more than half of those ages 12 to 19. Because oral conditions negatively impact overall health, the AAPD is backing expansion and support for public health insurance, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as addressing transportation and language barriers that prevent patients from visiting the dentist.
Featured image by LEEZSNOW /ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS
From Decisions in Dentistry. April 2019;5(4):8.