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Racial Gap in Kids' Dental Care Vanishing: Study
Date:7/5/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Since 1964, the disparity between black and white children's dental care has narrowed dramatically, a new study finds.

By 2010, the disparity in receiving dental care had almost disappeared and was statistically insignificant, researchers say. More, however, is needed to ensure that all children in the United States get adequate dental care, they add.

Roughly 50 years ago, "about 60 percent of African-American children had never been to a dentist, compared with 30 percent of white children. By 2010, this gap had completely disappeared as did the gap in yearly dental visits," said lead author Dr. Inyang Isong, an instructor in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston.

The gap was greatest among poor black children, she said. "We imagine that some of the government programs targeted to these children may have contributed to narrowing the gap," she said. These programs include Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Despite this progress, there are still many children who do not see a dentist, Isong said. "The good news is that African-American and white kids are accessing dental care at equal rates, but the bad news is that African-American kids still have higher rates of cavities."

In addition to going to the dentist, other factors that may contribute to this disparity include diet, the availability of sugary drinks and the quality of dental care poor African- American children receive, she said.

The report was published online July 2 and appears in the August print edition of Pediatrics.

To track the trends in children's dental care, Isong's team used data from five U.S. National Health Interview Surveys from 1964 to 2010, focusing on children 2 to 17 years old.

Specifically, they looked at the children's history of seeing a dentist in the past year and not ever seei
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