More kids visiting the dentist

The proportion of American youths who visit the dentist regularly has edged up slightly, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Crunching numbers from a 2004 survey, the agency found that 45 percent of Americans 20 years old or younger visit a dentist at least once a year.

Still that was only a tiny increase over 1996, when a similar survey showed 42 percent of youths saw a dentist that often.

And despite the increase, the numbers show that public health goals are far from being met in this area; the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that the young visit the dentist twice a year.

Among the surveys other findings:

  • Only 31 percent of children from poor families saw a dentist once a year compared with 47 percent of children from middle-income families and 62 percent from high-income families.
  • Only about 34 percent of black youths and 33 percent of Hispanic youths saw a dentist annually. The percentage was much higher -- nearly 53 percent --for white youths.
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