Study cites gaps in kid’s dental health
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Laura Thornquist, Special to The Press
Tennessee gets a C on a new national report card that compares how states are doing in providing dental care to children.
The Pew Center on the States based the grades on issues such as availability of tooth sealants and water fluoridation, Medicaid policies that encourage dentists to treat lower-income children, and the overall number of dentists available to keep up with the demand.
Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, says states need to anticipate the effects of health-care reform, which will be major in terms of dental health.
“What that means in real terms is that, by 2014, an additional 5.3 million children will have dental coverage. So, that’s good, except for the fact that this report card shows that states are basically not ready to serve them.”
In the Pew report, Tennessee remained the same as last year in improvement, meeting only half of the eight policy benchmarks for addressing children’s dental-health needs.
About half the states earned A or B grades in the Pew report – proof, according to Gehshan, that even in tough budget times states are finding it worthwhile to get children to the dentist regularly, to prevent more serious health problems.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is working in New Mexico and six other states to create dental-therapy programs…training people, much like nurse practitioners in medicine, to do some of the work in underserved areas.
Foundation president Sterling Speirn says it should help ease the critical shortage of dental professionals, which is one reason for New Mexico’s lower grade.
“Close to 50 million Americans live in places where there aren’t enough dentists, and millions more can’t get access to care because it’s just too expensive or they don’t have coverage.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is working in seven states to create dental-therapy programs, training people, much like nurse practitioners in medicine, to do some of the work in underserved areas.
Foundation president Sterling Speirn says this ongoing medical research should help ease the critical shortage of dental professionals and authorized caregivers, which is one reason for Tennessee’s lower grade.
More than half of Tennessee children on Medicaid received no dental service in 2009, according to the Pew report.
Nationally, the Pew Report says that more than 16 million children from low-income families do not get annual dental checkups.
To find out more information, visit The Pew report online at pewcenteronthestates.org.