skip navigation , health centers and clinics , search , accessibility statement , Página en español ,
Contra Costa Health Services
contact us

Also of Interest
Topics > Reducing Health Disparities Initiative > What We Are Doing > Dental Disease an Epidemic Low-Income Children

Dental Disease an Epidemic Low-Income Children

The staff of our Children's Oral Health Program gets together outside their offices at 597 Center Ave. in Martinez.

Thousands of Contra Costa children are suffering from untreated dental disease that leads to pain, inability to learn and loss of school days, among other serious problems. Children from low-income families and children of color are more likely to have a history of tooth decay, untreated tooth decay and urgent dental care needs than higher-income and non-Latino white children respectively, according to a 2004-2005 statewide survey. Our Children's Oral Health Program (COHP) reports that of the 13,304 preschool and elementary school children their Save Our Smiles project screened in the 2005-2006 school year, 12% had serious dental disease and another 16% had less serious dental decay.


Access to dental care for low-income children in Contra Costa is scarce. Of the 785 private dentists practicing in Contra Costa, only 34 see children with Denti-Cal - the Medi-Cal dental plan - on a regular basis. Private dentists and specialists have reported that they are reluctant to see children with Denti-Cal because of the bureaucracy involved, low reimbursement rates and broken appointments. This lack of providers poses a serious health disparity issue, especially in East County where the population is surging. Another issue affecting the oral health of East County children is the lack of fluoridated water in Bay Point, Knightsen, Brentwood and Byron. Fluoridated water significantly reduces tooth decay.

What we're doing

Our Children's Oral Health Program (COHP) is working to overcome these health disparities by linking children with the care they need. A Registered Dental Assistant works with families to link children with dental appointments, transportation, translation services, and support services and follow-ups with families to ensure appointments are kept. This coordination encourages private dentists and specialists to accept children with Denti-Cal. Save Our Smiles, a project of our COHP, is a school-based preventative program that serves low-income children from preschool to sixth grade and special education students through age 19. It offers oral health education, dental screenings, sealant clinics and fluoride varnish application for communities with below-standard fluoridation.

For more information on the Children's Oral Health Program, visit or call 925-313-6280.

Content provided by the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative.

Contra Costa County home page