Oral Health

There is a Serious Unmet Need for Oral Health Services

Many of California’s most vulnerable children and youth are not getting necessary oral health services.

  • Two out of every ten children and adolescents lack dental insurance coverage. Among children and adolescents living in poverty that number rises to more than three in ten.1
  • 14% of adolescents have not seen a dentist in over a year. Children are more likely to go to the dentist regularly; but, even among children under 12, 7% have not seen a dentist in over a year.2
  • Nationally, more than 16% of children and adolescents ages 5-17 have untreated dental cavities. Among children in poverty, the percentage is much higher: 26% have untreated dental cavities.3

In addition, oral health problems can make it difficult for children and youth to be at school and fully engaged in learning, thereby impeding their educational experience and outcomes.According to the U.S. Surgeon General, American students miss more than 51 million hours of school, each year, as a result of oral health problems.4

School-Based Health Centers Prevent and Treat Oral Health Problems

School-based health centers (SBHCs) provide high-quality, affordable dental health services, including both preventive and restorative care, thereby improving children’s oral health. Recent research shows that:

  • SBHCs reach children at high risk of oral disease by providing education, prevention and treatment.5
  • SBHCs can be more effective than community-based dental clinics, across a wide range of indicators, and “provide a natural location [for] preventive and responsive dental care.”6

Learn More

To learn more about starting and running school oral health programs, see Oral Health Resources.

(1) California Health Interview Survey, 2009.
(2) California Health Interview Survey, 2009.
(3) ChildStats: http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/hc4c.asp.
(4) Lapin, B. & Smith, A.J.B. School of the 21st Century, Yale University. (2009). Dental Care: The Often Neglected Part of Health Care.
(5) National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center. (2011). Comprehensive Oral Health Services for Improving Children’s and Adolescents’ Oral Health through School-Based Health Centers.
(6) Larsen, C.D., Larsen, M.D., Handwerker, L.B., Kim, M.S., et al. (2009). A Comparison of Urban School- and Community-Based Dental Clinics. Journal of School Health. 79(3): 116-122.