Organizations encourage families to get back on track during Children’s Dental Health Month this February

Feb 24, 2023

An analysis of National Survey of Children's Health data by the Virginia Dental Association reveals decayed teeth and cavities are up an estimated 44% among Virginia kids.

The dramatic uptick is the result of delayed dental care during the early part of the pandemic, according to Virginia Dental Association leaders.

The National Survey of Children’s Health found that an estimated 130,237 Virginia children experienced decayed teeth or cavities in its 2018-2019 data set. The number jumped to 187,762 youth in the 2020-2021 survey.

Recent data from the Journal of the American Dental Association also reveals a widespread decline in children’s oral health status during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data from 2018 through 2020, the likelihood of a child visiting the dentist in 2020 was 27% lower than in 2019. Researchers also found that children in 2020 were 75% more likely to have poor dental health than in 2019.


The state’s Smiles for Kids Medicaid program is experiencing similar declines: The percent of youth utilizing dental benefits decreased from about 56% in 2019 to 48% in 2022.

“Many of our children’s dental hygiene visits were disrupted at the onset of the pandemic,” said Virginia Dental Association President, Cynthia Southern, DDS, MS.  “When you start the habit of seeing the dentist regularly as a child, you build trust and positive associations with taking care of your oral health and smiling with confidence. A cavity won’t get better on its own without treatment.  And we’re seeing many ‘COVID cavities’ today. This February and beyond, we’re urging all caregivers to not delay dental visits for their children.”

The Virginia Dental Association and its members are using National Children’s Dental Health Month this February to help reinforce the benefits of good oral health among youth.

To help mitigate the effects of delayed dental care, new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics are encouraging parents and caregivers to:

  • Schedule regular dental appointments and serve as a role model for good oral hygiene;
  • Ensure children brush their teeth daily and drink fluoridated tap water; and
  • Cut back on sugary drinks and foods.

“Tooth decay is a top chronic infectious disease among children, with about half of US children affected by the time they enter school,” said Virginia Academy of Pediatric Dentistry President Elizabeth Berry, DDS, MSD, MPH.  “There are two essential ways to prevent tooth decay: One is to brush your child’s teeth twice a day. The second is to establish a dental home with a dentist for your child no later than one year of age. Prevention is key to preventing this disease.”

Find a local dentist at


About the Virginia Dental Association

The Virginia Dental Association is affiliated with the American Dental Association and has 4,000 members across the Commonwealth. The VDA’s mission is to represent and serve member dentists by fostering quality oral health care and education. The VDA provides continuing education, advocacy and practice support for its member dentists to further that mission.

About the Virginia Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

The Virginia Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The VAPD’s mission is to advance the science and art of pediatric dentistry; to encourage, sponsor, and advance the achievement of a high and ethical standard of practice, education, and research in the art and science of all phases of dentistry for children, adolescents, and children with special healthcare needs; and to continually educate the health professions and the public concerning recognized scientific and advancements in the dental and general health of children.