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CDC: Children's preventive dental care effective, use low

September 11, 2014

By Craig Palmer

image of CDC brochure
Messaging: CDC has fact sheets like this one available for download in support of the report.
Atlanta — Although preventive dental care is effective, the percentage of children using dental care is low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Sept. 10 report.

Clinical interventions, including dental sealants and fluoride — topical gels, varnishes and oral fluoride supplementation — are effective in preventing and controlling tooth decay, said the report published as a supplement to CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report cites sealant and fluoride recommendations of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs for children at risk for developing tooth decay.

But by one measure highlighted in the report, fewer than half of children through age 21 used dental care in 2009 and only 14.2 percent of children through age 21 received a preventive dental service — topical fluoride, sealants or both. These low levels of use persisted during 2003-09, the report said.

An analysis of total dental costs among children from low-income families found that average total dental costs were lower for children who participated in a school-based sealant program than children who attended a school without such a program.

ADA's Health Policy Institute reported in a 2013 research brief ( that dental care utilization continues to decline among working-age adults, increases among the elderly and is stable among children.

"Provisions in the Affordable Care Act likely will increase the number of children and adolescents with regular access to dental care and to preventive services that have the potential to substantially reduce tooth decay," CDC said in the dental chapter of a broader report on use of 11 clinical preventive services to improve the health of infants, children and adolescents. "This might ultimately lead to improved quality of life and school performance."

The dental chapter lists authors from the CDC Division of Oral Health, DB Consulting Group Inc., and Northrup Grumman Information Systems. The broader report, including the dental chapter, is posted at the CDC's website.