Dental health is an essential part of growing up healthy. Early preventive dental care results in better oral health, overall health, and improved well-being. Despite being a preventable disease, tooth decay is the most common childhood illness and can lead to serious and costly oral health problems in adulthood. The destructive impact of poor oral health is evident in underserved communities, where children have far more untreated tooth decay than children in more affluent neighborhoods. Poor oral health can lead to pain and suffering, disrupt overall health and development, and result in missed school days and poor academic achievement.
There are many barriers preventing children from getting dental care. More than half of children who have dental benefits through Medi-Cal have not been to a dentist in the last year. There are not enough dentists in low-income communities participating in Medi-Cal to treat children in need. Low-income families often face financial, transportation, and language barriers when seeking traditional, office-based dental care. Children of color face additional obstacles in obtaining preventive oral health care and experience higher rates of dental decay. In many instances, families may not realize that their children have dental coverage or how to use that coverage to get dental care.
Our work identifies the obstacles families face in getting dental care for their children, while offering practical solutions to address the gaps in children’s dental care. We aim to reduce oral health disparities by conducting research and promoting community-based delivery models of care to improve children’s oral health.
Partners & Community
We are implementing on-the-ground solutions—using telehealth, new technologies, and a broad and diverse team of community providers—to bring dental care to children where they are, such as in schools, Head Start sites, and even at home. Working with our community partners, we educate families about their children’s dental benefits and how to get care.
We are raising awareness of the importance of good oral health and early preventive dental care for children, by working with local and state coalitions and partners to identify and promote policy solutions with decision-makers.