Children’s Oral Health in America: The Good, the Bad & The Ugly

New Delta Dental survey breaks down kids oral health by the numbers


Oak Brook, Ill., USA – It’s Children’s Dental Health Month in America, so let’s start with the good news: according to their parents, majority of kids in the country are brushing their teeth at least twice a day and flossing. A new survey of parents by Delta Dental Plans Association finds that regular flossing (43 per cent) and brushing (28 per cent) are some of the toughest tasks to get kids to do among common activities such as eating vegetables (40 per cent), helping out with chores (50 per cent) and doing homework (25 per cent).

Key findings from the survey of parents with children ages 12 and under (an age group that accounts for roughly 17 per cent of the nation’s population):


The good:

  • 63 per cent of parents say their kids had no cavities in the last year.

  • 92 per cent of parents say their children are brushing at least once a day (67 per cent are brushing at least twice a day).

  • 72 per cent of parents think about their child’s oral health every day.

  • 90 per cent of children have dental coverage, either public or private.

  • Nearly one-third (32 per cent) of children are flossing every day.

The bad:

  • 37 per cent of kids had at least one cavity in the past year (1 cavity: 14 per cent; 2 cavities: 12 per cent; and 3 or more: 11 per cent).

  • 19 per cent of parents say their children never floss.

  • 40 per cent of children three years old or younger have never been to a dentist. The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry recommends that a child have a dental appointment by age one.

The ugly:

  • 10 per cent (or 5.3 million) of kids 12 and under in the nation still don’t have dental insurance, either public or private.

  • 12 per cent of parents with children 12 and under say they have never brought their children to a dentist.

  • 70 per cent of parents with children under three who use sippy cups allow their children to nap with the cup at least a few times per week (a practice that leaves sugar and acids on children’s teeth and is a major risk factor for tooth decay).

“While many of the nation’s children are on the right track to good oral health and overall health, clearly, there is much work to be done when it comes to helping parents understand the importance of getting an early start on dental care. Neglected baby teeth can lead to bigger oral health problems down the road,” said Bill Kohn, DDS, vice president for dental science and policy for Delta Dental Plans Association. “A healthy mouth at a young age can improve overall health for children and sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles.”

To help make a difference, Delta Dental companies work in communities across the nation to bring oral health care education, information and services aimed at improving oral health care and overall health. Delta Dental companies spend nearly $50 million annually in support of programmes focusing on preventing dental disease, expanding access to care, promoting good oral health, impacting the lives of more than 4.3 million children.