Only a quarter of young children enrolled in California’s low-income health program receive preventative dental care — a statistic that state officials and advocates are urgently trying to change.
One way to do that is to add dental services to more health clinics, so families can make one trip to see a dentist and doctor, according to a report from the UCLA School of Dentistry, as well as two children’s organizations, First 5 LA and Children Now.
Less than half of California’s low-income health centers that are federally funded also have dental clinics, according to the brief. The state and federal government should provide grants that would enable more Federally Qualified Health Centers to offer dental care, the researchers wrote.
Also, many health centers that offer dental care have long patient waiting lists and need funding to expand their services, according to the report.
They “often serve only a fraction of children who receive medical services, underscoring the need for additional efforts to expand oral health care capacity in FQHCs,” the researchers wrote.
Children who don’t receive preventative dental services, such as teeth cleanings, are more likely to experience tooth decay, which can lead to a host of problems.
“Tooth decay is an often-overlooked health problem that can impact every facet of a child’s life — often leading to poor academic achievement, deteriorating overall physical health, and social isolation,” Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, said in a release.