U.S. Sees Increase in Cases of Untreated Cavities
With "dentists' fees rising far faster than inflation and more than 100 million people lacking dental insurance," the percentage of U.S. residents with "untreated cavities began rising this decade, reversing a half-century trend of improvement in dental health," the New York Times reports.
According to CDC, in 2003 and 2004, the most recent years with data available, 27% of children and 29% of adults had untreated cavities -- the highest percentages since the late 1980s and significantly higher than the percentages between 1999 and 2002.
Dentists maintain that a majority of residents receive high-quality dental care, and state boards of dentists and the American Dental Association have fought efforts to use dental hygienists and other non-dentists to provide basic care to residents who lack access to dentists. However, according to the Times, many lower-income residents do not receive adequate dental care -- in part because "most dentists want customers who can pay cash or have private insurance" and do not accept Medicaid beneficiaries -- and, as a result, "publicly supported dental clinics have months-long waiting lists even for people who need major surgery for decayed teeth" (Berenson, New York Times, 10/11).