UPDATE, August 13, 2012: Under do-or-die consideration this month is SB 694 (Alex Padilla, D-San Fernando Valley), that creates a state-wide office of oral health that wouuld, according to today's California Healthline, "help California get federal money for subsidized dental programs" (for under-served children); and launch a project to train "a new level of oral health care professional in California" -- something that sounds somewhere in-between the dentist and the hygenist. Sort of like a family practitioner in the dental field. Heard in the Assembly Appropriations on August 8, it was referred to the "suspense" file and will be reheard later this week.
UPDATE, June 8, 2012: Only 30% of children in California who are enrolled in Medicaid have been to a dentist ever, according to findings from a study by researchers at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Baltimore.
Researchers analyzed Medicaid claims from 2002 to 2007 nationwide to see if there had been an increase in the number of children who had been to the dentist at least once. In California, the rate had increased 6% since 2002, peaking at entering kindergarten (43%) and dropping off by high school (23%). California's increase in rates of dental visits is behind the median for all states nationwide (16%).
The increase in the number of children visiting the dentist at school-entry is because all children enrolled in kindergarten are required by state law to have had a dental check-up in the 12 months prior (AB 1433 signed into law in 2005); this study only examines data for the 2 years since AB 1433 came into effect.
Read below for previously reported stories on dental disease in California's children:
The National Survey of Children's Health, as reported today on California Healthline, just reported that 28% of CA kids have "untreated dental decay by age five. In 2007, more than 500K" kids, ages 5-17, missed at least one day of school due to dental problems, causing an ADA loss of $29.7 million to local districts.
Jared Fine, the dental health administrator at Alameda County Public Health Department, said, "We have an epidemic of dental disease in children that's absurdly pervasive." He said that while California health care experts recognize the need to address dental health in early childhood, such programs are "in their infancy" and lack funding.
The state mandates that new kindergarteners and first graders receive a dental exam. If there is sign of decay, the students are then referred to a dentist. However, Fine notes that there are not enough dentists willing to accept the students
Many children from low-income families qualify for Denti-Cal -- California's dental program through Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. However, fewer than half of the 255 pediatric dentists in California participate in the program. Of those California dentists who accept Denti-Cal, two-thirds limit the number of patients they treat because of low reimbursement rates, according to a survey published in Pediatric Dentistry.
The two states with worse stats than California are Arizona and Texas. Fifteen years ago,research done at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery Dental School, University of Maryland, found [emphases ours]:
...an oral survey of a convenience sample of children 2-5 years of age (n = 142) and a survey of the knowledge, opinions and practices (KOP) of their parents (n = 121) were completed. Clinical data of children were matched with parent respondents of the KOP survey. Data were analyzed for statistical associations using univariate odds ratios, Fisher's exact tests, and multiple logistic regression. RESULTS: Only 53% of the children were caries free. Eighteen percent of all children were in need of immediate dental care and 26% were in need of early or non-urgent dental care. Only 7% of the parents knew the purpose of sealants and 52% knew the purpose of fluorides. Further, only 9% thought that brushing with toothpaste can prevent tooth decay The strongest predictors of dental caries in this population, after adjusting for child's age and mother's education, were recency of mother's residence in the United States and report of an uncooperative child when attempting toothbrushing. CONCLUSIONS: Regimens of caries prevention have been successful in reducing dental decay for a large segment of the US population, yet this disease remains prevalent especially among low socioeconomic groups. The oral health status of the children and the oral health KOP of the parents in this community are disturbingly deficient.
In 2005,The Journal of School Nursing, published an article by Ruth M. Brown, a nurse in the Redwood city School District that was based on her master's degree project at San Jose State Univ. School of Nursing:
This program provided oral health education for Latino immigrant parents in a northern California school district. A pretest–posttest was administered to measure changes in oral health knowledge and reported oral health behaviors following two sessions of oral health education. This program provides a framework for school nurses who are in an ideal position to implement similar programs that address the oral health needs of the pediatric population, particularly those of the Latino immigrant community.