Chicago Children’s Annual Dental Checkups Exceed State and National Rates

February 26, 2020

Health equity in children’s dental care found across demographics

Eighty-seven percent of Chicago children (1 year of age and older) had received preventive dental care in the last year, according to the latest survey of parents released by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). This exceeds the rates for children in Illinois (76 percent) and nationally (80 percent), based on the most recently available data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (2017-2018).

“We were pleased to learn that a large majority of Chicago children are getting their annual dental checkups,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, Interim Chair of Pediatrics and Chief of Community Health Transformation at Lurie Children’s, and Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine, Medical Social Sciences, and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We also discovered that children’s dental care access did not differ based on household income, race and ethnicity, health insurance coverage, health status, gender, or whether they attend public or private school. This health equity is very encouraging.”

While Dr. Davis and colleagues found consistently high levels of preventive dental care across most demographics, there were differences according to age. Older children were much more likely to have had a dental visit in the past year (94 percent) than kids who are 5 years old and younger (72 percent).

“The age differences we see might be due to the Illinois mandate for preventive dental care that applies to all kindergarteners and school-aged children, but not to younger children,” says Dr. Davis.

Illinois is one of only 14 states in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, that has mandated school-entrance dental exams.

However, preventive dental care needs to begin much earlier. “It is important to emphasize that children should start having dental checkups as soon as their teeth are fully in,” says Dr. Davis.

“While our survey shows that most school-aged children are receiving preventive dental care, we need additional efforts to ensure that more younger children receive regular dental checkups,” says CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD, MPH.

Survey results are based on the second wave of data collected through the Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr. (2018-19), that was developed by Dr. Davis in collaboration with the CDPH Office of Epidemiology and Research. Phone interviews were conducted with 2,982 adults, including 740 parents, December 2018 through May 2019. Households across Chicago were randomly selected, with participants in all 77 community areas.

To share the survey results, Dr. Davis and his team at Lurie Children’s launched “Voices of Child Health in Chicago,” a research program focused on bringing the perspectives of Chicagoans to inform dialogue and action about child health in the city. On a regular basis, data briefs are issued that report on a wide range of survey result topics that affect youth health. 

Population-focused child health research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research, Outreach, and Advocacy Center at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of new knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries.