Today, Delta Dental of Massachusetts released a report – The Oral Health of Massachusetts’ Children - that shows that minority and low-income children have much higher levels of dental disease than white and high-income children. That may not seem surprising, given that there has been so much conversation about disparities in health care, but some of the stats do jump off the page:
- One in ten Black, Hispanic and low-income children in Massachusetts are suffering from pain in their teeth and mouth.
- Children from low-income families are nine times more likely to need urgent oral health care than higher-income children.
Left untreated, dental disease can make it difficult for children to concentrate and learn, leading to problems in school, and can also have devastating consequences for a child’s overall health.
Reviewing the data in the report, I was struck again by how unconscionable it is that any child should have to suffer from pain or untreated disease - especially since oral disease is almost entirely preventable.
This is unacceptable.
There are any number of cost-efficient ways to protect teeth and reduce bacteria levels in the mouth. Sealants can be applied to molars, forming a barrier against disease. Some dentists are even prescribing Xilotol gum – yes, a dentist telling kids to chew gum! – which reduces the level of bacteria in the mouth.
The fact is that we know how to eliminate most oral disease in children. What we need now is a statewide plan to eliminate dental disease, like those that exist in Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Delta Dental is convening a summit this spring to pull stakeholders together to get this done. Please consider this an open invitation to join us – because we absolutely need to muster the will to get this done. Oral health matters.
President & CEO
Delta Dental of Massachusetts
This program aired on January 24, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.