A paper published in JADA found that while the pandemic led to declines in children’s dental visit frequency, race-based disparities persisted.

A recent paper published in the Journal of the American Dental Association looked into lingering effects from the pandemic on the frequency of dental visits among children and their oral health. The authors of the paper, “Changes in dental visits and oral health for children by race and ethnicity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wanted to see if the racial disparities in oral health that existed prior to the pandemic were affected in any way.

The authors used data from the National Survey of Children’s Health which featured 163,948 child observations from 2017-2021. The authors also examined caregiver-reports from a dental visit and adverse oral health outcomes from 2017 through 2019 to compare with the data from 2020 and 2021 to find outcomes within and across racial and ethnic groups.

While there were clear declines in dental visits caused by the pandemic across children of all races, there were limited changes in adverse oral health outcomes. Pre-pandemic disparities in dental visits persisted for Black children and Asian children when compared with White children.

The only notable change was among Hispanic children who experienced larger increases in both adverse oral health outcomes and in having teeth in fair or poor condition than in White children.

The authors recommended continued monitoring of dental visits and adverse oral health outcomes by race and ethnicity to inform efforts to improve oral health care for all children. The information, they say, can help develop targeted interventions to improve children’s oral health, including for minoritized racial and ethnic groups.

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