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Dental Health, Medicaid, and SCHIP -- New KFF Brief

Dental Health, Medicaid, and SCHIP -- New KFF Brief

August 25, 2007

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured has released a fact sheet called: “Dental coverage and care for low-income children: The Role of Medicaid and SCHIP.” This paper provides a national view of children’s dental health and the solutions we need to work together to accomplish to ensure that all children have access to health care. Below is an excerpt from this paper.

“Oral health is an integral component of children’s overall health and well-being. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease, affecting five times more children than asthma. Statistics from the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that over two-thirds (68%) of children have decay in their permanent teeth. Oral Diseases have been linked to ear and sinus infections and weakened immune systems, as well as diabetes, and heart and lung disease. Lack of treatment has the potential to affect speech, nutrition, social development, and quality of life, and in the worst cases, can lead to death. Studies have found that children with oral diseases are restricted in their daily activities and miss over 51 million hours of school each year.

Preventive measures such as fluoridated water and sealants, as well as diagnostic dental services, are effective and efficient ways to prevent, detect and treat tooth decay and disease. Children who receive early preventive care have average dental costs that are 40% lower than those of children who do not receive early treatment. The CDC estimates that every dollar invested in fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs.”

The fact sheet discusses the importance of having dental benefits in both the Medicaid and SCHIP programs and makes recommendations for increasing access to dental care for children. These recommendations include “expanding community heath centers in medically underserved areas, providing grants to increase the numbers of pediatric dentists, developing prevention programs for high-risk populations, and improving efforts to track children’s dental health.” Other solutions include increasing provider payment rates and increasing access to parental education.

Overall, we know that oral health is critical to overall health. We also know that while dental disease is the most common infectious disease of childhood, it is also among the most preventable. It is nice to see Kaiser produce a comprehensive fact sheet for national advocates.

To read the fact sheet, click here:
Kate Vaughan