Only 45% of Americans 20 or younger visit a dentist once per year or more, according to data compiled for the latest "News and Numbers" from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends at least two checkups per year in most cases.

The statistics on dental care come from a 2004 national survey. Results show only a slightly higher percentage of children got annual dental care in 2004 than in 1996, when 42% of children got at least one yearly exam.

Other highlights from the survey:

• Only 31% of children from poor families saw a dentist once per year, compared with 47% of children from middle-income families and 62% from high-income families;

• Only about 34% of black youths and 33% of Hispanic youths saw a dentist annually. Nearly 53% of white youths did.

AHRQ, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, works to enhance the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care in the United States. The data in this AHRQ "News and Numbers" summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Dental Use, Expenses, Dental Coverage, and Changes, 1996 and 2004.