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February 24, 2010

Study: 1 in 5 children go without dental care but Maryland improving

Nationwide, about 17 million low-income children go without dental care each year, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States. But Maryland is among the states recognized for its efforts to improve that problem.

Maryland was one of just six states that received an "A" grade on the report.

The study discusses how Maryland went from receiving national attention for a 2007 case in which a 12-year-old boy died after an abscessed tooth infection spread to his brain, to becoming a leader in dental care access for poor children.

States like Maryland which scored well made changes to their Medicaid structure to encourage more dentists to provide care to low-income kids and worked to increase the number of dental providers overall. In 2008, Maryland made a $7 million investment in reimbursement rates and added 200 new providers the same year, according to the study.

Elsewhere, poor children are suffering because of a lack of basic dental checkups. Often they are covered by Medicaid or eligible for it, but few dentists accept the government insurance because its reimbursement rates are lower than private coverage. In some places, there simply aren't enough dental providers to begin with. 

The consequences are more than just a nagging cavity, the report insists. Oral infections can be serious and lasting and impact a child's overall health, resulting in days lost at school and poor academic performance, the report states.

And the study's authors make this interesting observation: Twice as many Americans lack dental coverage than health care insurance. And yet, dental care has been largely absent from the health reform debate.

Most of all, it's a relatively easy problem to fix, the report states.

Unlike so many of America’s other health care problems, the challenge of ensuring disadvantaged children’s dental health and access to care is one that can be overcome. There are a variety of solutions, they can be achieved at relatively little cost, and the return on investment for children and taxpayers will be significant.

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Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Pediatrics


Access to regular preventive dental examinations and treatment is more critical to overall health than regular medical care.

This is true for both children and adults.

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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