Medicaid dental program comes under fire

A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that a third of all children covered by Medicaid receive no dental care, and approximately 6.5 million children in Medicaid have untreated tooth decay.

The GAO report, commissioned in 2007 after two young boys died from complications resulting from untreated tooth decay, estimates that in 2005, 1.1 million children between the ages of 2 and 18 in Medicaid had conditions that warranted seeing a dentist. The report also found that approximately 724,000 children in Medicaid could not obtain needed care.

"In the midst of debate about an unprecedented bailout of financial systems, I urge our Congressional leaders not to lose focus on the fact that there are families who are in an ongoing state of financial crisis and to help them obtain the services they need, including dental care," said Beth Truett, president and CEO of Oral Health America.

Oral Health America urges support for specific oral health measures, including:

  • School oral health services that include the placement of dental sealants
  • Community water fluoridation
  • Programs that promote "dental homes" providing a routine source of continuous, comprehensive care
  • Programs that engage physicians and nurses in addressing oral disease

"A number of states are engaged in lawsuits for failing to provide dental care to families who need it," Truett said. "The problem of access to dental care, like tooth decay, is not going to go away on its own. Let us work together to promote oral health and avoid further litigation."

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