Although it is preventable, dental disease is perhaps the most prevalent chronic childhood illness in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of children 5 to 11 years old have one tooth with untreated decay, a situation that may lead to more severe health problems. Youth from lower-income families have a higher rate of untreated tooth decay than their peers.
As dental care has long been a component of public health policy, RAND examined access to dental care across Pennsylvania using a series of indicators to determine the distribution and available of dentists and dental hygienists. Two counties (Potter and Juniata) did not meet the guideline of full-time dentist per number of residents. Other counties varied greatly across study indicators. A sample of findings:
- Two counties do not have dentists that accept Medicaid.
- 58 percent of counties in Pennsylvania do not have pediatric dental specialists.
- High unemployment rates were associated with fewer providers of dental care.
- The Head Start program appears to be a successful method in getting dental care to children who might not otherwise have access to it.
Citation: Baird, Matthew D., Michelle K. Baird and Joseph V. Vesely. Access to Dental Providers in Pennsylvania: Exploration of the County-Level Distribution of Dental Providers and Populations in 2013. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1351.html.