Children's Dental Policy

Children's Dental Policy



Pew’s work on children’s dental policy promotes cost-effective policies to expand access to dental care and ensure millions more children receive the basic care they need to grow, learn, and lead healthy lives.

Why Dental Care Matters

Dental care is the greatest unmet need among children. In 2009, more than 16 million low-income children went without care. Tooth decay affects nearly 60 percent of kids. If untreated, the consequences can be painful and disruptive to learning and daily activities. In extreme cases, untreated decay can lead to serious, potentially life-threatening infections.

The Dental Care Policies We Promote

Our research and advocacy efforts focus on four efficient, cost-effective strategies:

  • Expanding the number of professionals who can provide high-quality dental care to low-income children;

  • Ensuring that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program work better for kids and for providers so that insurance coverage translates into real care;

  • Expanding access to fluoridated water; and

  • Increasing sealant programs for kids who need them most.

How We Conduct Our Work

We work with lawmakers; government officials; dental providers; national, state, and local organizations; researchers; and the private sector, targeting states in which policy changes can dramatically improve children’s lives. For example, Pew is working in several states to explore the creation of new types of dental providers—similar to nurse practitioners in the medical field—to work in collaboration with dentists and expand care for underserved kids.


February 12, 2014

Expanding the Dental Team

This report looks at two private dental practices that employ dental therapists to increase access to dental care for underserved populations. More
June 23, 2013

In Search of Dental Care

Our latest report examines the lack of access to dental care, especially for low-income children and families, in the United States. It also explores the strategies states are employing — particularly the expansion of the dental team by licensing additional types of providers — to address workforce shortages and serve low-income children. More
April 10, 2013

Working With Midlevel Providers

Although they work in more than 50 countries, Minnesota and Alaska are the two states in which midlevel dental providers are licensed to work as part of the dental team. Two dentists who supervise these practitioners in Minnesota share their perspectives. More
June 13, 2013

Water Fluoridation: Many Still Don’t Receive Its Benefits

Millions of Americans do not have access to fluoridated water in their communities, leading to higher rates of tooth decay and greater costs to the taxpayers. More
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