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Dentists? They're strangers to 1 in 4 California kids

July 7, 2010 | 12:14 pm

Exam It's not a pretty picture, the overall state of dental care for California's kids. That's because too many of them -- one-quarter, to be exact -- don't have it. Yep. One in 4 have never even been to a dentist.

That attention-grabbing statistic is from a dental-care study released Wednesday and published in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs. It analyzed care -- or, rather, lack thereof -- for children ages 11 and under in the so-called Golden State.

The researchers, from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California HealthCare Foundation, found that the picture is especially bleak for Latino and African American kids, regardless of whether they have private insurance or public insurance (Medicaid for the Children's Health Insurance Program). 

The abstract of the study states:

"Poor oral health has important implications for the healthy development of children. Children in Medicaid, especially Latinos and African Americans, experience high rates of tooth decay, yet they visit dentists less often than privately insured children. Even Latino and African American children with private insurance are less likely than white children to visit dentists and have longer intervals between dental visits. Furthermore, Latino and African American children in Medicaid are more likely than white children in Medicaid to have longer intervals between visits. These findings raise concerns about Medicaid’s ability to address disparities in dental care access and, more broadly, in health care."

That seems safe to say.

The full study, Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Dental Care for Publicly Insured Children, can be accessed through the California HealthCare Foundation website.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Getty Images

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