This article is part of the supplement: Biotechnology and Biomaterials to Reduce the Caries Epidemic
Disparities in Early Childhood Caries
1 Department of Health Promotion and Policy, University of Maryland Dental School, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA
2 Center for Health Services and Community Research, Children's National Medical Center/George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20010, USA
BMC Oral Health 2006, 6(Suppl 1):S3 doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-S1-S3Published: 15 June 2006
Despite remarkable reduction in the prevalence of dental caries in the United States, dental caries is still a highly prevalent disease among children who are socially disadvantaged (racial/ethnic minority, poor, rural, immigrants). Consequently, caries sequelae such as dental pain, need for dental treatment under general anesthesia, and future orthodontic treatment, are also concentrated among the most socially disadvantaged children. To make the situation more appalling, those children who need treatment the most are the ones least likely to visit the dentist. Low income children are less likely to visit the dentist in part because of family's competing needs for limited resources, shortage of pediatric dentists, and dentists not taking uninsured or publicly insured patients. In the same vein, if these children do not have access to dental care, they are deprived from effective caries preventive measures that are dentist-dependent such as sealants and professionally applied fluoride. Dentistry has done well at devising caries preventive and treatment strategies; but these strategies have missed the most needed segment of society: disadvantaged children. The challenge now is to develop innovative strategies to reach these children.