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Keeping Dental Care a Priority

by Arturo Brito, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer & Executive Vice President, Children's Health Fund

The Surgeon General calls dental problems the “Silent Epidemic” that results in more than 51 Million school hours of missed school each year.  For poor children, Medicaid is the principal insurer and its low reimbursement rate discourages the participation of dentists across the country.  It’s a frightening reality, since not properly caring for teeth can bring about more critical medical problems and can sometimes even lead to death.

CHF Idaho Program Staff provide comprehensive dental care to local childrenWednesday'sPittsburgh-Post Gazette brought attention to the low rates of dental care visits among low-income children in the state of Pennsylvania.  According to the article, the Pennsylvania Medicaid Policy Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health released an online report that found Medical Assistance (Pennsylvania’s name for Medicaid) covered nearly 1 million (35.5%) of all Pennsylvania children last year and less than half of the children enrolled in Medicaid see a dentist each year.  While the article goes into more detail about how this specifically affects children in the state of Pennsylvania, we know this is a larger problem and children nationwide are not getting appropriate and quality dental care. 

At Children’s Health Fund (CHF), addressing the low rates of dental care visits is a priority—programs in our national network assure that children receiving medical services also receive needed dental services either through a mobile dental clinic or by referring children to collaborating community dentists.  Mobile Dental Clinics in CHF's national network provide comprehensive oral health care - screening, dental exams, digital x-rays, oral health education and dental procedures - to low-income children throughout the country.