BACKGROUND : We assessed the prevalence of dental disease among U.S. children and adolescents aged 6–17
years, as well as the impact of unmet dental needs on school absenteeism because of illness/injury within the
past 12 months.
METHODS : Data were from the 2011/2012 National Survey of Children's Health (n = 65,680). Unmet dental
need was defined as lack of access to appropriate and timely preventive or therapeutic dental healthcare when
needed within the past 12 months. The impact of unmet dental needs on school absenteeism was measured
using a multivariate generalized linear model with Poisson probability distribution (p b 0.05).
RESULTS : Within the past 12 months, 21.8% (10.8 million) of all U.S. children and adolescents aged 6–17 years
had “a toothache, decayed teeth, or unfilled cavities.” Of all U.S. children and adolescents aged 6–17 years, 15.8%
(7.8 million) reported any unmet dental need (i.e., preventive and/or therapeutic dental need)within the past 12
months. The mean number of days of school absence because of illness/injury was higher among students with
an unmet therapeutic dental need in the presence of a dental condition compared to those reporting no unmet
dental need (β=0.25; p b 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS : Enhanced and sustained efforts are needed to increase access to dental services among underserved
U.S. children and adolescents.