Children's oral health in America: the good, the bad & the ugly

New Delta Dental survey breaks down kids oral health by-the-numbers

OAK BROOK, Illinois - February 4, 2016 - It's Children's Dental Health Month in America, so let's start with the good news: according to their parents, the majority of kids in the country are brushing their teeth at least twice a day and flossing. A new survey of parents by Delta Dental Plans Association finds that regular flossing (43%) and brushing (28%) are some of the toughest tasks to get kids to do among common activities such as eating vegetables (40%), helping out with chores (50%) and doing homework (25%).

Key findings from the survey of parents with children ages 12 and under (an age group that accounts for roughly 17% of the nation's population):

The good:


  •  63% of parents say their kids had no cavities in the last year.
  • 92% of parents say their children are brushing at least once a day (67% are brushing at least twice a day).
  • 72% of parents think about their child's oral health every day.
  • 90% of children have dental coverage, either public or private.
  • Nearly one-third (32%) of children are flossing every day.

The bad:


  • 37% of kids had at least one cavity in the past year (1 cavity: 14%, 2 cavities: 12%, and 3 or more: 11%).
  • 19% of parents say their children never floss.
  • 40% of children 3 years old or younger have never been to a dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child have a dental appointment by age one.

The ugly:


  • 10% (or 5.3 million) of kids 12 and under in the nation still don't have dental insurance, either public or private.
  • 12% of parents with children 12 and under say they have never brought their children to a dentist.
  • 70% of parents with children under 3 who use sippy cups, allow their children to nap with the cup at least a few times per week (a practice that leaves sugar and acids on children's teeth and is a major risk factor for tooth decay).

"While many of the nation's children are on the right track to good oral health and overall health, clearly there is much work to be done when it comes to helping parents understand the importance of getting an early start on dental care. Neglected baby teeth can lead to bigger oral health problems down the road," said Bill Kohn, DDS, vice president for dental science and policy for Delta Dental Plans Association. "A healthy mouth at a young age can improve overall health for children and sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles."

To help make a difference, Delta Dental companies work in communities across the nation to bring oral health care education, information and services aimed at improving oral health care and overall health. Delta Dental companies spend nearly $50 million annually in support of programs focusing on preventing dental disease, expanding access to care, promoting good oral health, impacting the lives of more than 4.3 million children.

About the Survey: These questions are from The Children's Oral Health Survey conducted by Kelton Global between December 16th, 2015 and January 14th, 2016 among 1,607 parents of children ages 12 or under. The margin of error is +/-2.4 percent. All data in this release are self-reported by the parents.