WalletHub has completed its annual study of the Best & Worst States for Children’s Health Care, which includes factors related to oral health as part of its criteria.
According to the study, children in the District of Columbia have the best healthcare, followed by Hawaii, Vermont, Washington, and Maryland. Texas has the worst healthcare for children, preceded by Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
Children in the District of Columbia enjoyed the best oral healthcare, followed by West Virginia, Vermont, Iowa, and South Carolina. Children in Nevada had the worst, preceded by Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, and Louisiana.
WalletHub assessed states based on 35 metrics across three weighted categories: children’s health and access to healthcare (55%); nutrition, physical activity, and obesity (40%); and oral health (5%). Metrics in the oral health category included:
- Share of children aged 1 to 17 with excellent or very good teeth
- Share of children aged 0 to 17 with recent medical and dental checkups
- Share of population lacking access to fluoridated water
- Presence of a state oral health plan
- Presence of school-based dental-sealant programs
- Dental treatment costs
- Free or low-cost dental clinics per capita
- Presence of state mandate for dental-health screenings
- Share of dentists participating in Medicaid for child dental services
- Dentists per capita
New Hampshire had the highest percentage of children with excellent or very good teeth, followed by Maryland, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and Vermont. Arkansas had the lowest percentage, preceded by Missouri, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Tennessee and Kansas, which were tied.
Massachusetts had the highest percentage of children with a recent medical and dental checkup, followed by New Hampshire, Connecticut, Virginia, and Maine. Arkansas and Mississippi were tied with the lowest percentage, preceded by Nevada, California, and Louisiana.
Overall, WalletHub noted that 95% of children under the age of 18 have health insurance, though that high coverage rate hasn’t translated to lower health costs for parents. Also, the average family premium rose 4% in 2020 alone.
Some families can find relief through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. However, WalletHub said, many people who don’t qualify for government assistance will still struggle, especially in the difficult economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Children without health insurance are at disproportionate long-term risk for preventable chronic diseases and adverse outcomes for both non-communicable and communicable diseases,” said Sasha A. Fleary, PhD, associate professor at the City of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.
“Dental caries is the most chronic disease in childhood,” said Benard P. Dreyer, MD, director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Hassenfield Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health.
Dreyer advises parents to make sure their children drink fluoridate water or provide fluorine supplements by mouth. Plus, parents should ensure their children brush twice a day and take their children to the dentist no later than their first birthday, preferably a pediatric dentist or a general dentist very experienced in caring for children.
But again, those dental visits often depend on insurance coverage.
“Access to quality healthcare is critical for the welfare of all children, and quality healthcare should not depend on whether children have health insurance or their type of health insurance coverage,” said Fleary.