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Pediatr Dent. 2012 Jan-Feb;34(1):32-8.

The effects of poverty on children's development and oral health.

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Department of Pediatric Dentistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


According to the US Census Bureau, the poverty rate for children under 18 years of age increased to 22% in 2010. Poverty leads to adverse health outcomes in children and adolescents such as harmful effects on learning, psychosocial development, physical health, productivity and family life. Because the citizens and residents of a country are its most valuable assets, it is unwise to allow housing instability, food insecurity and hunger to continue to exist at its current levels. Reducing poverty is likely to prevent illnesses, decrease hospitalizations, and lead to lower health care costs. There is also a need for intervention strategies to ensure equitable access to healthy foods across the world. Children who are food insecure are more likely to be in poor health and to have poor nutritional outcomes. Poverty may lead to poor dental health due to malnutrition or incorrect diet and it may also have an effect on the child's behavior in the dental office. An understanding of poverty will lessen the anger, frustration and prejudice that pediatric dentists may feel when working with low-income families. This manuscript presents a concise overview of the effects of poverty in children's lives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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