Volunteer dentists fill the gaps

Volunteer dentists are coming to the rescue of children most in need of preventative dental care.

The movement comes as a federal report noted that more children are falling through the cracks when it comes to dental care.

A recent example occurred in Peoria, IL, at an annual dental care event in conjunction with American Dental Association's Give the Kids a Smile program. About 40 childrend received screenings, cleanings and sealent as part of the event last month at the local Crittenton Centers.

“We do this every year,” said Sara Leverton, child development center parent educator at Crittenton, noting that a vast majority of children who received free dental care Friday were 18 months to 5 years old, though the care was available for children up to 13 years old.

“It’s just easier for our parents to be able to have this free service, especially for kids who are going into kindergarten,” she said. “It’s also convenient for parents who work, because they don’t have to take time off.”

The federal Health and Human Services inspector general’s office concluded government should push to improve access to care because too few dentists accept Medicaid patients and many parents have not learned the importance of proper dental care.

More than 25 percent of Medicaid children received no dental care

A disturbing trend noted in a recent federal report showed that more than a quarter of children enrolled in Medicaid didn’t receive any dental care at all in 2013.

The finding came within a recent Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General report. It was discussed in a recent post on Becker’s Hospital Review.

A number of children covered by Medicaid didn't visit a dentist at all over the course of two years. "We found a significant number of children, 28 percent, who didn't receive any dental services over a two-year period" although they were enrolled in Medicaid, said Meridith Seife, deputy regional inspector general for the Office of Evaluation and Inspections, according to The Associated Press. In addition, the American Dental Association found less than half — 48 percent — of Medicaid-covered kids saw a dentist in 2013, while 64 percent of privately covered kids saw a dentist the same year.

The report urges states to do a better job to make sure family on Medicaid understand the services available to them and to streamline the process for visits.

We concur that such education is sorely needed.

Maine might expand Medicaid coverage for dental

Across the country, leaders are realizing that extending Medicaid coverage for dental services is a cost saver in the long run.

A recent example in the state of Maine illustrates that. There, the statewide Chamber of Commerce is urging passage of a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women for dental services. Maine is one of 10 states without this provision.

The stereotype of business opposing enlarging government coverage is a myth, at least in Maine. An editorial in Bangor Daily News tells the story.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce took the unusual step of testifying in favor of LD 474. “As a matter of course, the Maine State Chamber rarely, if ever, supports adding mandates on private insurers or on the state’s MaineCare Program,” Peter Gore, vice president of advocacy and government relations, wrote to members of the Committee on Health and Human Services in April. “However, this is one of those instances in which a modest investment today can lead to greater savings, better health outcomes and a more productive workforce in the years ahead.”

As governments look at the big pictures, more and more of them decide dental care coverage for adults and children is best for everyone.

ADA urges more state coordination on Medicaid

The American Dental Association (ADA) is urging state dental associations to become more involved in providing leadership on Medicaid dental services in their states.

Such a move will help retain or gain Medicaid services in their states for adults and children, the ADA says.

Specifically, the ADA’s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations sponsored a resolution that encourages “all state dental associations to work with their state Medicaid agency in hiring a Chief Medicaid Dental Officer, who is a member of organized dentistry.”

The news was [chronicled](http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2015-archive/december/ada-supports-state-level-dental-involvement-in-medicaid?nav=news ) on the ADA website recently.

Dr. Sid Whitman, chair of the Medicaid Provider Advisory Committee and a pediatric dentist, said he has witnessed firsthand in New Jersey, his home state, how state dental association involvement in Medicaid “opens the line of communication” and helps entities learn from each other.

“You really have a nice mix of people who have the welfare of the clients as the centerpiece,” he said, adding, “If you’re not at the table, there’s no way to get things done.”

The push for state-by-state coordination comes amid turmoil across state budgets nationwide as Medicaid dental services sometimes are cut back or not advanced at all.

Children seeing more dentists, adults less

There is good news and bad news in an important new study of Americans’ dental habits.

The good news is that the percentage of Medicaid enrolled children who visited a dentist in the past year increased 29 percent from 2000 to 2013. Thus, the gap between privately insured children’s dental care and poorer children has narrowed greatly.

On the negative side, dental visits by adults with private insurance is declining in most states.

The findings above come from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. The report includes data from all 50 states. It can found here.

In whole, the report indicates that adults value good dental care but are struggling in many instances to pay for it because of the national economy and a changing insurance landscape.

There is an opportunity there for policy makers to match the need with policies that work for all involved.

Downstate Illinois clinics help fill dental needs

In one downstate Illinois county, dentists are helping fill the needs of low income residents through dental clinics.

Recognizing that not all lower-income residents in McLean County can get by with private insurance or Medicaid coverage, a dentist rushed in to fill the gap.

The Bloomington Pantagraph notes the efforts of Dr. Jack Capodice Jr., oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Bloomington.

Since 1997, Capodice and his partners have hosted pain relief/tooth extraction clinics for McLean County adults who are low income and have no health insurance. Services are free because the oral surgeons, their staff and partnering local dentists donate their time, equipment and supplies.

The clinics began as a monthly effort and were meant to be temporary until the health department started its dental program. Even when the health department launched dental services, the need remained, so the clinic continues twice a year.

Last year, the dental clinics served 538 adults and 5,093 children and another 2,527 children were served through another school-based program.

The good-news story underscores the tremendous need in communities for quality dental care for lower-income adults and children. State reimbursement to dentists for people on Medicaid is low and not timely so many decline to see such patients.

Many forego treatment until an emergency, where they often end up in an emergency room.

”Every dentist I know gives away care," clarified Capodice. "When we all signed up for this, we agreed to help people."

We are thankful for dentists like Capodice. They are a blessing to those in need.

Patient thanks Pennsylvania staff for giving her back her smile

Tracy Evans of Middletown, PA would like to thank Dr. Joshua Kim and the Harrisburg Team for giving her back her smile. Tracy now has the confidence to start her new job and proudly show off her new pearly whites.

(Pictured below with Tracy are office manager Courtney Brader, Dr. Joshua Kim, Dentist; Raynee Doweary, EFDA; Rhyan Hayes, Lead DA; Stevie Irizarry, DA and Alexandria Lueke, DA).

We aim for fun while we make your smiles sparkle

At Dental Dreams, we believe in having fun while improving your smiles.

In our York, PA office we celebrated Halloween with a face painter and balloon artist.

In the photos below are patients Melanie and Marley Thoman, as well as staff member Travis Gwynn and face artist Donna Grentz from Mimzy's Face Painting.

Kalamazoo staff helps out kids

Some members of our Kalamazoo office staff helped kids by participating in the Trunk or Treat event in Portage last weekend. The staff members passed out more than 100 tooth brushes, toothpaste and goodies to foster children. The event was sponsored by Lutheran Social Services of Michigan. We were happy to pitch in!

Dental care for children improves, but adults lag behind

The picture for child dental care is improving, according to a new study, but at the same time adult care is falling behind.

It is a disturbing trend for adults, who are seeing less dental coverage in the private arena and much less public coverage than children.

Findings are from a new state-by-state analysis of dental trends by the American Dental Health Association’s Health Policy Institute. The complete report can be found here.

Financial barriers to dental care are increasing among adults, while for children they are much lower and have not increased over time. Expanded dental benefits coverage for children, mainly through Medicaid and the Children Health Insurance Program, and decreased dental benefits coverage among adults have also played key roles.

According to the American Association of Health Care Journalists website, the report notes that even though access to dental care is on the rise among children, there are still problems in poorer neighborhoods.

The lack of care has had serious oral health consequences for poor beneficiaries who often face elevated risk for disease, and at the same time are more likely to go without treatment.

In nearly all states and the District of Columbia, Medicaid dental visits by children increased between 2005 and 2013, according to the study.

Dental care important during pregnancy

Dental Dreams office manager Natasha Summers of our Reading, PA office visited Reading Hospital recently to discuss the importance of dental care during pregnancy. Approximately 20 expectant mothers attended. Natasha will continue to work with the hospital to dispense this important information.

Patient praises work of dentist

As we always say: It makes our day when a patient is happy. Recently in the Rockford, IL area, a patient was so happy with the work of Dr. Zehra Ali at our Machesney Park office, she wrote the following letter:

Re: Dr. Ali

I would like to take the time to compliment a dentist at Dental Dreams. My dentist is Dr. Ali. I am so grateful for Dr. Ali.

Dr. Ali is extremely detail oriented and an excellent dentist.She is very professional yet very friendly at the same time. She always expresses concern and asks if I am doing okay during the visit. She is very timely and gives explanations of the work she is doing. She has had a different dental assistant as she does my dental work and she is very kind and helpful to the assistants. She does not waste any time during her procedures and yet does everything accurately and in a friendly manner. I have much respect for the person she is and the job she does.

I am so appreciative that I wanted to take the time to let Dental Dreams know what an excellent job she does! Please in some way acknowledge her professional and excellent service.

I thank you in advance,

Lisa XXXX Loves Park, IL

Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to brighten our day!

Families struggle with dental care as government help dwindles

Many Americans have trouble affording dental care. Depending on what type of insurance they have or what state they live in, low to middle income people feel they have to go without dental care altogether.

If a person has private dental insurance, many patients have a difficult time paying their share. Medicaid patients have a hard time finding dentists who will take their insurance, according to Pew.

Another barrier to dental care for low-income adults is the relatively low reimbursement rates offered by state Medicaid programs. Extensive paperwork and oversight also limit the number of dentists willing to take Medicaid patients. (The ACA calls for even more intensive oversight and audits.) The result is poor access to preventive care for low-income people on Medicaid in much of the country, ultimately resulting in higher overall costs.

At least state laws require Medicaid and private dental insurers to provide coverage for children. Most states however, leave adults to fend for themselves. California, Virginia, South Carolina and Indiana are extending some additional dental coverage for adults.

Dental coverage through Medicaid has a poor history at best. Medicaid dental coverage is not the only coverage that is struggling to keep Americans healthy, Pew opines.

The problem is not limited to Medicaid. Most employer-sponsored insurance pays for only a portion of the cost of an annual checkup and a few fillings. For moderate-income people who need more extensive restorative work, out-of-pocket expenses can be unaffordable. In a recent survey, nearly four out of 10 respondents said they or a family member had put off seeing a dentist because of concerns about out-of-pocket expenses.

If people have dental problems without proper coverage they tend to delay dental card until it becomes an emergency. Once it is an emergency they go to the emergency room. Most ERs aren't properly equipped to treat dental emergencies so they just treat the pain without treating what caused the pain. The end result is the patients problem still exists while costing them more money.

The struggle for states to provide adequate adult dental care rolls on. Some states are starting to "get it" and realize it costs them more if patients use emergency rooms for dental care. Some insurances are starting to include dental care in their lower priced packages. Other states are expanding coverages to some adult dental care.

Until people can afford preventative dental care, the problem of getting people proper care will continue.

Finances squeezing dental care out of family budgets

Finances and dental care do not always go together. If it comes down to catching up on a car or house payment or that family vacation you have been dreaming about and dental care, dental care usually loses out.

A recent 108 page report by the Federal Reserve Board's Board of Governors, said this about family members:

  • 25% didn't get dental care when it was needed.
  • 15% went without a doctor visit.
  • 13% went without prescription medicine.
  • 11% went without prescription medicine.

    Many people who do have health insurance, don't have a sufficient dental plan. A co-payment system, especially for low income participants, is another barrier that prevents proper dental care. People are having trouble affording proper dental treatment.

    Several states have eliminated adult dental coverage under Medicaid altogether. Other states are considering dropping the coverage in their upcoming budgets. Add this fact to the lowering number of companies offering dental plans, and the number of people who can afford dental care is dropping.

    When people put off dental maintenance it could lead to bigger and more costly medical problems. If not properly insured or financed a trip to the emergency room usually follows. That trip to the emergency room will not only be more expensive but it will not properly treat the dental problem. Most emergency rooms are not equipped to handle dental emergencies.

    When finances are low and you have to make the tough decisions on what to spend your money on, try and keep in mind the importance of your dental health. You, your family and your smile will be glad you did.

Exciting parade in Winnebago, IL

Our Machesney Park, IL office attended the nearby annual Winnebago, IL 4th of July Parade. The team made a float decorated for the holiday.

Pictured below are some of the dental assistants. They dressed up for the occasion and even had a tooth fairy! The girls passed out goodie bags with toothbrushes and paste. It was an honor to attend, as well as a great time. We look forward to many more community events!

Soccer fun in Virginia

Family Dental of Richmond took part in the 2nd Annual Copa Telemundo Soccer Tournament recently. A total of 32 teams competed throughout the day for the championship.

More than 2,000 people came to show their support for their loved ones or their favorite team. It was a fun a day for everyone, the sun was shining and so were we.

Our booth allowed us to see familiar faces and meet new ones. We gave out more than 2,000 goodie bags. From dancing with Lucky the Aaron's Furniture Dog to informing a first time mom about gum care for her baby girl, it was a GOLASO event!

Cutting dental coverage might cost states more

There are a couple of states that have an important decision to make regarding adult dental coverage under Medicaid.

Missouri and Illinois face upcoming budget cuts and must decide whether to keep adult dental coverage. If they cut the coverage, will the states actually be saving money? The University of Iowa researched this issue and came up with some interesting findings.

The study from University of Iowa researchers looked at California, which decided to end adult dental coverage under Medicaid in mid-2009. Some 3.5 million low-income adults in the Golden State lost dental benefits. The researchers found those adults made more than 1,800 additional visits annually to hospital emergency departments for dental care after losing the benefit. In all, California spent $2.9 million each year in Medicaid costs for dental care in emergency departments, up from $1.6 million before the state eliminated the adult dental care benefit. That's a 68 percent increase in costs, when factoring inflation.

Other states had similar results when they cut adult dental benefits. Oregon almost doubled its emergency room dental visits and Maryland saw a 12 percent rise in such visits.

Emergency rooms aren't equipped to solve most dental problems. Most ER's don't perform extractions or root canals. They only provide pain medicine. This of course, does not take care of the problem. Plus, these visits are more costly than a trip to the dentist.

The people that have their benefits cut tend to be those in the lower income bracket.

Young adults, members of racial/ethnic minority groups, and urban residents were disproportionately affected by the change, the researchers found.

Only 15 states carry comprehensive dental benefits for low-income adults.

Missouri and Illinois have tough decisions to make concerning budget cuts. Cutting adult dental benefits, according to research, might end up costing the states more money for insufficient dental care.