A peer-reviewed journal that offers evidence-based clinical information and continuing education for dentists.

Pediatric Visits Continue to Trend Upward

At a Glance


THE PERCENTAGE OF SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN WITH AT LEAST AN ANNUAL DENTAL VISIT HAS BEEN STEADILY INCREASINGAccording to a new analysis of government and American Dental Association data, good progress has been made over the past two decades in children’s oral health.1 One reason for this trend is the percentage of school-age children with at least an annual dental visit has been steadily increasing for all groups — privately insured (usually through a parent’s employer), publicly insured and the uninsured. Just as important, the percentage of children without dental insurance has been shrinking.2 Dental coverage was already increasing in this patient population before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — which ensured pediatric benefits — was passed. Data show that only 15.8% of pediatric patients were uninsured in 2010, and the ACA helped drop this even further, to 8.3% in 2017 (the most recent year for which figures are available).1,3

1220 At a glance chart

But there is concern the current pandemic could disrupt these positive trends. School-based dental education and preventive screening programs have been paused as schools switch to virtual or hybrid education models to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.4 Furthermore, on the treatment side, the American Dental Association reports longer wait times for hospital operating room scheduling, a move that heavily impacts dentists’ ability to perform pediatric procedures under general anesthesia — such as treating extensive early childhood caries.5

With the surge in COVID-19 cases offset by the prospects of a vaccine becoming available in the foreseeable future, it is hoped dentists will continue offering routine treatment for children, and that efforts to provide school-based screening will find creative ways to resume preventive care.

1220 At a glance chart 2


  1. Crall JJ, Vujicic M. Children’s Oral Health: Progress, Policy Development, and Priorities for Continued Improvement. Available at: https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1377/​hlthaff.2020.00799. Accessed November 18, 2020.
  2. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey. Available at: click here. Accessed November 18, 2020.
  3. Unpublished analysis of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data for 2000–2017 for children ages 2–18 by the American Dental Association, Health Policy Institute.
  4. Cramer M. School Closures Cut a Critical Line to Dental Care for Poor Students. Available at: click here. Accessed November 18, 2020.
  5. American Dental Association. COVID-19: Economic impact on dental practices: Specialist Report — week of August 10. Available at: click here. Accessed November 18, 2020.

From Decisions in Dentistry. December 2020;6(11): 46.

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