Public Health Calls for Dental Care to Start Early in Childhood

Public Health Calls for Dental Care to Start Early in Childhood


Even Amid COVID-19 Parents Can Take Actions Now To Improve Their Child’s Dental Health Later

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 10, 2021 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — In time for National Children’s Dental Health Month, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) launched a media and public education campaign to give parents advice on how to care for their children’s baby teeth and lay the foundation for their babies’ dental health as they grow with a healthy routine at home.

LACDPH Oral Health Campaign Graphic

By the time they enter kindergarten, nearly half of children in Los Angeles County have experienced tooth decay and more than 60 percent of third grade children have had dental disease. The most common oral disease is tooth decay. Tooth decay remains more common in children from socioeconomically disadvantaged households, among children from Spanish speaking households, and among Asian, Black/African American and Latino/Latinx children. Children from families with low incomes are almost twice as likely to have treated and/or untreated cavities and are substantially more likely to have untreated cavities compared to those who do not come from families with low incomes. Nearly two-thirds of Latino/Latinx children and more than half of African American/Black children and almost half of Asian children have had a cavity in their lifetime, compared to only 32 percent of non-Hispanic white children.

“We see significant dental health disparities among children in Los Angeles County, with children from families with lower incomes more likely to have cavities and less likely to have access to dental care,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “Dental health is essential to overall health. Developing preventive habits at home and having access to a dentist puts our children on track for a lifetime of healthy smiles. We encourage parents to visit for tips and to find a low or no cost dentist near you.”

When not treated by a dentist, cavities can be painful and only get worse, reducing children’s wellbeing and academic development. Children experiencing toothaches may not be able to concentrate on their daily academic learnings or while taking an exam, for example. They may have a hard time concentrating or preparing for class. Untreated tooth decay can lead to health problems, including increasing pain, poor nutrition, infections which if left untreated could become life-threatening. Poor oral hygiene is associated with health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and pregnancy complications later in life. It’s also more cost effective to start a healthy routine of going to the dentist by the time a child turns age one. Children covered by the Medi-Cal Dental Program who went to the dentist by age one had 40% lower dental costs over their next four years when compared to children that did not see a dentist in their first year of life. In California, children who qualify for Medi-Cal Dental insurance have most dental care services including teeth cleanings, fillings, and x-rays covered by their insurance.

Public Health’s awareness campaign encourages parents to take three simple actions to safeguard their baby’s dental health from day one:

  • Even before the first tooth comes in, clean your baby’s gums with a washcloth after feeding;
  • Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and just a smear of fluoride toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice; and,
  • Start visiting the dentist every 6 months by the time your baby turns one or when the first tooth appears.

Public Health will run a public awareness and education campaign in English and Spanish to reach parents and caregivers of children ages 0-5 in communities where children have the highest rates of cavities and the least access to dental care. The effort will include advertisements on television, radio, online, social media, grocery stores, bus shelters, and pediatricians’ offices. Watch the campaign videos here:

Find a low or no cost dentist near you and get tips for taking care of your child’s teeth at every age:

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of over 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,100 employees and has an annual budget of $1 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, visit, and follow LA County Public Health on social media at,, and

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health works to protect health,
prevent disease, and promote health and well-being.


LACDPH Smile Survey 2020

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SOURCE Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Public Health Calls for Dental Care to Start Early in Childhood