Let’s Take a Break from Biting Our Nails on Health Reform to Think About Teeth – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

Mom: “Did you brush your teeth?”

Child: “Yep.”

Mom: “How come your toothbrush isn’t wet?”

This is an excerpt from the script of the bedtime drama
performed live nightly in the comfort of my own home.  Just between you, me and the tooth fairy … after battling on
the nutrition, hygiene and homework fronts, I don’t have a lot of energy left
to wage the toothbrush wars. 
That’s why I’m always a bit nervous about dragging my children to their
6-month dental check-ups.  Luckily,
we have good dental benefits and an understanding dentist.  With the help of the dentist and dental
hygienists, we’ve managed to get through with only a couple of cavities between
all three kids.  (The nightly drama
slacks off a bit after a good “education session” from the dentist.)

Other parents are facing the same obstacles to ensuring
their kids have healthy teeth and gums but not all of them are able to rely on
a dentist.   Even children
with excellent brushing and flossing habits need to see a dentist because
untreated dental disease and tooth decay can have devastating health
consequences.  However, about one in five children in the U.S. do not receive dental
care each year according to a new report The Cost of Delay: State Dental
Policies Fail One in Five Children
, by the
Pew Center on the States.  The
report points out that states play a key role in ensuring that low-income
children have access to basic, preventive dental care and that more than
two-thirds of the states are doing a poor job in this area.

The good news is that the Children’s Health Insurance
Program Reauthorization Act 
provided states with new tools to help improve the oral health of
children.  All CHIP programs are
now required to cover comprehensive dental benefits. CHIPRA also allows states
with separate CHIP programs to offer a dental-only plan for children who have
other health insurance, but lack adequate dental benefits. Other oral health
improvements include education for new parents, better access to benefit and
provider information, and enhanced reporting on the quality of dental health
services in Medicaid and CHIP.  CCF, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, and the Children’s Dental Health Project just released a “CHIP
” on CHIPRA’s oral health provisions which is a good resource for
those who want to see children receive better oral healthcare coverage.


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