Growing Gaps in Latino Dental Health

Despite a rise in Latino and minority health initiatives, oral health disparities still remain

By LatinoLA Contributor
Published on LatinoLA: August 14, 2015

Growing Gaps in Latino Dental Health

[b]Despite a rise in Latino and minority health initiatives, oral health continues to be left out of the conversation; resulting in a noticeable disparity in oral health for Latinos, and in particular Latino children.]/b]

Alarmingly, signs that Latino children are not developing good oral health habits are dramatically apparent when looking tooth decay rates of children of other ethnicities. In fact, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has found that Mexican-American children have nearly two-times as many untreated cavities as their peers-meaning that they are simply bearing through tooth decay with no medical intervention.
The same research shows that more than 38% of Mexican-American adults also do not receive treatment for dental decay; second to African American adults, of which 40% never receive treatment.

Why the disparity? Many could argue that importance placed on dental health care is cyclical, and that parents pass along healthy habits to children. Healthy habits must be present to be passed along.

For many, dental care feels like a luxury, and not a necessity. The American Dental Association found that cost is the top listed reason that people forgo annual dental visits.

Government programs such as Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare offer dental coverage, however, many may not be taking advantage of the full benefits. Private dental insurance plans or dental discount plans offered through providers can help take the edge off of paying off dental treatments. Medical credit cards are also an alternative for those who cannot afford large up-front treatment costs.

Still, a major underlying issue is that many people do not view dental care as a primary part of total-body wellness. The mouth is a gateway to health, and poor oral health can have effects on other parts of the body, as well as influence chronic diseases. Teeth, gums and the tongue require proper cleaning and care twice daily, and dental visits should be made every six months to screen for issues.

Dental care should be made top priority for all mouths; and in particular for Latino children to form healthy habits at a young age. Accessibility and awareness are the two most important factors for making sure that the Latino population has resources and oral health education to make conscious health choices. For more oral health tips and information visit

About LatinoLA Contributor:
Jefferson Dental serves more than 200,000 patients annually at 49 locations in Texas. Visit for more dental health tips and information.
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