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1 in 5 Americans Has Untreated Cavities: CDC
Date:5/31/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- More than one in every five Americans has untreated cavities, a new government report shows.

"Untreated tooth decay is prevalent in the U.S.," said report co-author Dr. Bruce Dye, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. "It appears that we haven't been able to make any significant strides during the last decade to reduce untreated cavities."

One expert was not surprised by the findings.

"This is information that has been known for a while," said Dr. Lindsay Robinson, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association. "More people are on Medicaid and more and more states, in an attempt to balance their budgets, have eliminated dental benefits."

There needs to be more investment in dental care to cover those who rely on Medicaid, Robinson said. "Only about 2 percent of Medicaid dollars go to dental care. In the private system it's triple that," she explained.

"Even people with dental benefits are afraid of any extra out-of-pocket costs," Robinson added.

The report authors found that the rate of cavities was pretty steady among all age groups, with teenagers having the lowest prevalence, Dye said. Among kids aged 5 to 11, 20 percent had untreated cavities, while 13 percent of those aged 12 to 19 had untreated cavities. People aged 20 to 44 had the highest rate of untreated cavities, at 25 percent.

Usually there is a difference in income when it comes to health care, but in this case children were getting about the same dental care regardless of family income, Dye noted.

For poorer children, this is most likely due to government programs such as Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), Dye said. Among adults, the poor have a rate of untreated dental problems twice that of others, he noted.

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