Dental Care Hard to Find for Poor in California

(HeraldPost: Flickr)

(HeraldPost: Flickr)

Steve Fisher at Oakland Local has an extensive report today about just how hard it is for children in poor families to get good dental care.

California is ranked the third worst state in the country (after Arizona and Texas) for children’s oral health. With numbers like that, it’s not so surprising that it can be virtually impossible for people to find a dentist who accepts Medi-Cal. People with good dental care may not realize how critical healthy teeth are for overall health and success in school.

The lack of adequate dental care for California children is an enormous problem. Although 71 percent of all California children develop tooth decay by the third grade, almost one in four of these children under age 12 have never seen a dentist, according to a June 2011 report by The Children’s Partnership. Recent studies have shown that children in California  – especially low-income children – lose millions of hours of school due to dental issues, which can result in poorer academic performance and grades.

Small wonder that healthy teeth are often a sign of socio-economic status, as Franks points out. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay, or “caries,” is the number one disease for children in the country and occur five times more often than asthma, the next most widespread childhood disease.

Besides causing extreme pain, tooth decay can turn into an abscess whose infection spreads through the rest of the body, leaving a child vulnerable to ear or sinus infections. In rare cases, an abscess, untreated, can cause dangerous neck and jaw swelling and even death.

You can read Fisher’s full report at Oakland Local.