Health Trust Study Finds 31% of Santa Clara County Children Have Untreated Tooth Decay
One-third of Santa Clara County children younger than age nine have untreated tooth decay, and minority and low-income children are disproportionately affected, according to a survey released today by the Health Trust, a not-for-profit patient advocacy group, the San Jose Mercury News reports. In the study, researchers surveyed 1,680 children in kindergarten through third grade, as well as children in Head Start, a state program for low-income preschool children (Winegard, San Jose Mercury News, 5/6). The study found that 31% of the children surveyed had untreated tooth decay, and 10% had "rampant" tooth decay, defined as seven or more decayed teeth (San Jose Mercury News, 5/6). According to the study, "cost was a factor" in many cases of untreated tooth decay. The study also found that families who do not speak English often had not taken their children to the dentist. About 30% of Latino parents and 13% of Asian parents did not take their children to the dentist in the two years prior to the study, compared with 7% of white parents, the study found. Dr. David Lees, who directed the study, said, "We need to reach out -- in their language -- to identify barriers they perceive as inhibitive. Given the economics of the valley, those people have a hard time making ends meet, and dentistry is a discretionary service." Despite the high rate of tooth decay among children in Santa Clara County, county children have "better overall dental health" than children statewide, based on a study conducted in 1994 that found tooth decay in 55% of California students in kindergarten through third grade (Winegrad, San Jose Mercury News, 5/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.