dentistry

California's dental health system for the poor is dysfunctional, according to a report by a bipartisan oversight commission.

A more vivid description comes from Pedro Nava, the commission's chairman: "In California we have kids' teeth rotting out of their heads," he says. "That's utterly inexcusable."

If the high-pitched whir of a dentist's drill as it bores into your molar terrifies you, good news! There could be fewer fillings in your future. A painless way to prevent cavities in adults is gaining traction.

When a child’s first tooth erupts, the American Dental Association recommends parents get them into the dentist. For low-income families, that sometimes isn't an option. But Washington’s low-income kids have more dentist visits than in any other state.

Flickr photo by VoxEfx

In the old days, you might have tied a string to the door, and pulled a tooth with a slam (see the YouTube video below). But these days, most of us prefer a sterile environment and some anesthetic, not to mention a professional guiding hand.

How much training and supervision you need to pull teeth (and offer dental advice) are the central questions in a dispute between dentists and advocates for poor children. 

Dan Hatten / Flickr

Your average American’s teeth may be whiter and straighter than they were a generation ago, but for very young children, tooth decay is still one the biggest health problems. 

Dentists and pediatricians are meeting this week at the University of Washington to find ways to reverse the trend.