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Tips on Finding Preventive Care for Children's Oral Health
More than 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illnesses. Despite these numbers, many children still do not visit the dentist. In addition, almost 50 percent of tooth decay remains untreated in low-income children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"The need for dental care cannot be ignored. Dental diseases grow progressively worse without treatment, which influences overall health and may require increasingly costly care," says Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) spokesperson Mark Ritz, DDS, MAGD. "However, most oral health problems can be prevented. Regular dental examinations, oral health education and primary disease prevention will dramatically reduce the burden of dental disease in most patients."
Regular examinations can seem expensive to people without dental insurance, and many children are without dental coverage. The Surgeon General's office reports that for every child without medical insurance there are 2.6 children lacking dental insurance. These resources are available to help the parents of children in need of dental care:
Federally sponsored programs
Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited incomes. More than 40 million people have Medicaid coverage and about half are children. In order to be approved and receive the funding, certain eligibility requirements must be met. Go to http://cms.hhs.gov/ to look up eligibility requirements in each state.
A State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is another option for uninsured children. SCHIP is a state-administered program, and each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services. Go to http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/ for a listing of SCHIP programs.
States also have dental clinics or other charitable programs set up to help children receive dental care at no cost or at a reduced fee. Search online at http://ask.hrsa.gov/pc. Some state dental societies will also list clinics or charities.
A dental-school clinic is another option for reduced fee treatment. Students perform the procedures, which helps reduce treatment costs. Experienced faculty members are on site throughout the process to evaluate the student's work. State dental societies should have a listing of dental schools in the area.
Updated: January 2012
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