For kids, dental cavities and poor oral health are no minor issue. They can negatively impact diet, ability to concentrate and succeed in school, and self-esteem. In San Francisco, 35 percent of kindergartners have experienced dental caries (the medical term for tooth decay or cavities).
Like so many other health indicators, there are deep disparities in which children experience dental health problems. For example, San Francisco schools with more students from low-income backgrounds have far more students with untreated dental decay (40%) than higher income schools (5%). Children of color are also 2-3 times more likely to have untreated decay than their white counterparts. And as of 2016, San Francisco’s Asian communities had the highest rate of tooth decay, and Chinatown was the neighborhood with the worst outcomes in this area.
A bright spot in this work includes a collaboration between the San Francisco Department of Public Health and NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, deployed to improve dental outcomes in Chinatown. This collaboration offers free dental health screenings, fluoride treatments, and sealants in Chinatown schools, and works with local churches and doctors to promote preventive dental checkups.
Metta Fund provided early funding for this project in 2013, and we’re proud to see the work continuing! Learn more about the Coalition’s work in this KQED feature.
Data source: SF Children’s Oral Health Strategic Plan