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Is the Racial Gap in Kids’ Dental Care Gone?

Study Claims Racial Gap in Dental Care Statistically Insignificant

The gap in the quality of dental health between black and white children since 1964 has been greatly diminished, according a to a new study. The drastic changes in care are detailed in a report published online on July 2, 2012, and are appearing in the August print edition of Pediatrics.

Overall the study concludes that as of 2010 the difference in dental health between black and white children has statistically diminished, but there still needs to be more action in order to assure that all children will have and continue to get adequate dental care. The study was conducted by researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Child and Adolescent Health Research and Policy, which used a study from 1964 to compare data. In order to follow the trends in children’s dental care, the group pulled data that was collected from five U.S. National Health Interview Surveys from 1964 to 2010. They also only focused on children that were between the ages of 2 to 17 years old. The big question for the surveyors was if the child had seen a dentist at all in the past, and if they had seen a dentist in the past year.

According to the study 50 years ago, after the first set of interviews, more than 60 percent of African American children had never been to the dentist, yet the number was half of that for white children. It was also significantly different based on poverty lines. The gap over the past five decades had been worse for children who were poorer, and therefore did not get to see the dentist as often as their peers who had better financial situations. It’s believed that government programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program significantly helped to aid these problems in the poorest neighborhoods by giving dental care to those who needed it most. It’s also a substantial part of why the difference between the groups is so slim now.

Quality of Care Remains the Major Difference

However, according to the study, and critics, it’s believed that African American children are not receiving the same quality of care, in terms of frequency and follow up as their white counterparts. They have access to some dental services, and have seen the dentist, but it’s not always with the same level of consistency. They also have a much higher rate for cavities, leaving experts to think that much more can be done to help assist in how these kids are caring for their mouths. Additionally, a child’s dental health is also in direct correlation to their economic stability. The study found that it was still children who were living above the poverty level who were more likely to visit the dentist, and those below did not have the same access.

Focus Now on Closing Quality of Care Gap

Not surprisingly, the difference in type of dental care the child received also fell on what type of insurance the child had. For example, 77 percent of children using a government program, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, had visited a dentist in 2010. However, 83 percent of their peers who had privately funded insurance had visited the dentist. As the study results show, even with as much change as there has been in the last half century, clearly, there is more that can be done.

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Is the racial gap in childrens’ dental care diminishing? Please let us know your opinion in a comment below.

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