Minority, Poor Children In Connecticut Have Worse Oral Health Than Whites

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Minority children in Connecticut experience severe tooth decay attwice the rate of white children, and poor children -- regardless ofrace or ethnicity -- are three times more likely to have multiplecavities by third grade than those from families with higher incomes,according to a report released on Tuesday by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Hartford Courant reports.

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Thereport is a part of the national Every Smile Counts survey. Stateinvestigators during the past year administered oral exams to childrenenrolled in Head Start preschool programs, public school kindergartenand third grade. They found that:

  • Bythird grade, 50% of all black and Asian-American children had eitherfillings or untreated decay, compared with 35% of white children;
  • Hispanic children had the highest rate of tooth decay, with 63% having either fillings or untreated cavities;
  • Onein five minority children had rampant decay, defined as five or moreteeth with decay, compared with one in 10 white children; and
  • One in three children in preschool had untreated tooth decay or at least one filling.

Dentistsattribute higher rates of tooth decay in low-income children to poornutrition and inadequate oral care by parents but say the main cause islack of access to dentists. According to the Courant,about 100 of the 2,237 dentists in the state accept Medicaid patients.Advocates for the indigent maintain that the state needs to increaseMedicaid payments to dentists so that more will be willing to treatthem.

Jamey Bell -- a staff attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid,who filed a lawsuit on behalf of 300,000 low-income residents seekingbetter access to state dental services -- said, "We know hundreds offamilies who have tried desperately to get help for their children. Andsometimes it takes months and months, and sometimes they give up." Sheadded, "It's horrible and it's outrageous and not at all surprising"(Waldman, Hartford Courant, 9/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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