DENTAL DISEASE: Funding, Awareness Needed to Cap Problem
When author Jonathan Kozol documented the plight of poor children stuck in decrepit school systems, he made this observation: "Bleeding gums, impacted teeth, rotting teeth are routine matters in children. ... Children get used to feeling the constant pain. They go to sleep with it. They go to school with it. The gradual attrition of accepted pain erodes energy and aspiration." In an opinion piece for the San Diego Union-Tribune, the executive director of the San Ysidro Health Center notes that in San Diego, uninsured children, both minority and white, also suffer the same fate: "[W]e see more than 350 children each month, and only 10% of these children have dental sealants. ... The center's current resources do not allow us -- or other similar clinics -- to initiate effective oral disease prevention programs. Consequently, in the short term, the children's dental disease epidemic will continue at an alarming rate in San Diego County." Ed Martinez believes that the incidence of children's dental disease at his clinic is consistent with rates statewide, noting that in California "55% of 6-to 8-year-old children have untreated decay." That figure rises to 60% for black children, 66% for Hispanic children and 71% for Asian children. Martinez suggests several strategies to improve these statistics, including:
- "[A]ssurance for adequate funding for the delivery of basic dental services to high-risk, under-served children;
- "Public sector funding for primary dental treatment and prevention services," particularly for community clinics that serve uninsured patients;
- Creation of "broad-based coalitions that include private dental practitioners, community clinics, school-based programs and advocacy organizations."