Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia say Pennsylvania kids in the Medicaid program are seeing the dentist more often now.
A teeth cleaning and a check-up — all children enrolled in Medicaid have access to those dental benefits. Between 2005 and 2010, however, the percentage of children who actually got that care rose from about 40 percent to 55 percent, according to a review of state records conducted by Children’s Hospital PolicyLab researchers.
The gains were even greater among Latino children. For them, 63 percent of children from 5 to 10 received preventive dental care in 2010 up from 35 percent.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States, and poor children and racial minorities are likely to get dental cavities, said pediatrician Katherine Yun.
It’s hard to pinpoint what created the increase in the rate of those getting dental care.
It’s a guess, but Yun said some providers seem more willing to accept Medicaid insurance in recent years. And she has noticed that social service agencies and schools have started emphasizing the link between basic health and dental health.
“For example, for a child to enroll in Head Start, they need to go see a dentist,” Yun said.
Some elementary schools arrange to have dental professionals visit, and students get checkups on site.
“But, somehow, a high number of kids don’t make it, they don’t get the care they need,” Yun said.
Even though more kids covered by Medicaid are climbing into the dentist chair across the state, Yun said it’s too soon to become complacent because less than 60 percent of eligible Pennsylvania children are getting basic dental care.