A landmark study of more than 97 million dental claims, conducted by Delta Dental Plans Association, found two-thirds of children who are at higher risk of developing cavities aren't getting recommended preventive dental care.
The study determined that twenty-seven percent of children through age 18 are at a higher risk of developing cavities as measured by a history of recent fillings. Of those children:
- 65% did not receive two fluoride treatments per year.
- 68% of 6- to 9-year-olds didn't receive sealants on their first permanent molars.
- 85% of those ages 10 to 14 didn't receive sealants on their second permanent molars.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children at higher risk of tooth decay receive two fluoride treatments a year as well as sealants on their first and second permanent molars. Such treatments are commonly fully-covered benefits.
Children at higher risk of developing cavities aren't the only ones not receiving preventive care:
- One quarter of children 3 to 18 didn't visit the dentist at all.
- The very youngest children, those younger than 3, are the least likely to see a dentist; 71 percent of children under 3 didn't visit the dentist.
"Delta Dental is committed to improving the nation's oral health, and that means focusing on the very young to ensure they get a good start and are practicing a life-long approach to taking care of a crucial component of their overall health: their teeth," said Dr. Bill Kohn, vice president for dental science and policy for Delta Dental Plans Association. "Dental diseases like tooth decay and gum disease are preventable, so it is very important for children and adults at higher risk for dental disease to fully utilize the preventive dental benefits available to them."
Delta Dental encourages all employers to provide a dental benefits plan that covers sealants and two fluoride treatments annually, per ADA guidelines. Findings from the study will be used to educate individual consumers, parents and employers about the importance of preventive care. The findings will also help inform dental care providers about missed opportunities to provide needed care to their patients.
"This annual study helps Delta Dental identify ways to better ensure people have the information and benefits they need to maintain a healthy smile," said Dr. Kohn.
The risk of developing dental disease is related to personal and professional dental care, diet and genetics. Visit the Delta Dental MyDental Score tool for an online risk assessment survey.
Delta Dental Plans Association