Some of the credit for this goes to Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD), a program that provides oral healthcare for Washington's Medicaid-eligible young children, according to a press release.
ABCD leverages public/private partnerships to involve dentists, physicians, social service agencies, early childhood development programs, and other healthcare providers to identify and treat Medicaid-enrolled children from birth to age 6. Participating ABCD dentists, such as general dentist Eve Rutherford, DDS, receive training in treating very young children and are provided enhanced reimbursements for many preventive and restorative procedures.
"Treating a 2-year-old requires a different approach than an adult," Dr. Rutherford said. "ABCD allows us to reach these children early and prevent lasting damage."
The program, managed and supported by the Washington Dental Service Foundation (WDSF), also encourages pediatricians and family doctors to incorporate oral care in well-child checkups.
The result of early dental and medical attention: fewer children with painful oral disease and a significant savings in oral healthcare costs.
National organizations including the Pew Center on the States, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Children's Defense Fund, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and more have praised ABCD for its effectiveness and innovation.
"ABCD's decade-long success on improving children's dental health is a reflection of the sustained commitments and investments made by the program's broad base of supporters," a Pew study reported. "Other states would be smart to consider a similar approach."
The program began in Spokane in 1995 because only a small number of low-income children were getting basic dental care, even though they had Medicaid coverage. Since then, ABCD has spread county by county with the help of three-year start-up grants from WDSF.
When ABCD expanded outside of Spokane County in 1999, only 21% of young Medicaid-insured children in Washington visited the dentist. The number has since more than doubled, with more than half (54.3%) of young children receiving dental services.
Over a five-year period, ABCD helped cut in half the rate of untreated decay among low-income preschoolers, from 26% to 13%, according to state health officials.
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