California children lag behind in dental health care
May 24, 2010
By the age of 5, 28 percent of children in California suffer from untreated dental decay according to statewide figures. In 2007, the last year figures were available, more than 500,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17 missed at least one day of schooling, costing California school districts almost $30 million in lost revenue. [New York Times]
Dental care for children in California is currently ranked third from the bottom by the National Survey of Children’s health, beating out only Texas and Arizona. In San Francisco alone, children under the age of 17 made almost 2,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms for preventable dental conditions. The average cost of these visits was $172; $5,000 if hospitalization was required.
“We have an epidemic of dental disease in children that is absurdly pervasive,” said one public health official.
As more Californians have lost their jobs, they have also lost health insurance that could cover dental problems for their children. An estimated 300,000 Californians lost employer-based health coverage between 2007 and 2009.
What this means, health advocates argue, is that many children from low-income families live in chronic pain because of rotting teeth, which can interfere with their concentration, even their sleep.
Gov. Schwarzenegger is likely to make the situation worse with recently proposed cuts of $16.5 million to Healthy Families and $523 million to Medi-Cal.