Providing Quality Dental Care to Children Covered by Medicaid; National In-School Dental Program Bring Superior Oral Healthcare to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts

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The divide in access to quality dental care for underserved children in the U.S. is at a crisis point. To help bridge the divide and decrease the risk of dental disease in children, Dr. Larry Caplin founded Oral Health Impact Project (http://www.ohip.us) last year, a critically-acclaimed national initiative that brings "dental homes" to at-risk communities through comprehensive in-school programs. This fall, Oral Health Impact Project expanded in the U.S. with programs in school districts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Hampden County, Lowell, New Bedford and Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are now a total of six school districts with a large number of Medicaid-qualified populations enrolled in the program.

What most of the public doesn't know is that tooth decay is the most common childhood disease

The divide in access to quality dental care for underserved children in the U.S. is at a crisis point. To help bridge the divide and decrease the risk of dental disease in children, Dr. Larry Caplin founded Oral Health Impact Project (http://www.ohip.us) last year, a critically-acclaimed national initiative that brings "dental homes" to at-risk communities through comprehensive in-school programs. This fall, Oral Health Impact Project expanded in the U.S. with programs in school districts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Hampden County, Lowell, New Bedford and Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are now a total of six school districts with a large number of Medicaid-qualified populations enrolled in the program.

"What most of the public doesn't know is that tooth decay is the most common childhood disease," says Dr. Caplin. "It's five times more common than asthma, and it results in 51 million lost school hours every year. Lower-income children have two times the dental caries of others. When we combine these staggering statistics with the recent death of Deamonte Driver from a dental abscess, I can safely say that this country is dealing with a silent epidemic. Superior, safe and comprehensive in-school dental programs led by highly-qualified dentists are vital to public education about dental disease, but also to the overall quality of life of children."

Dr. Caplin also added that the recently released investigative report into Small Smiles dental clinics by ABC-affiliate WJLA-TV clearly shows the need for lawmakers and the U.S. Surgeon General to intervene before more children are traumatized or succumb to potentially fatal dental disease. The report uncovered allegations of mistreating children who are covered by Medicaid in order to turn a profit.

Oral Health Impact Project is providing preventative care and a complete range of services, including X-rays, fillings, cleanings, sealants and more complex procedures to students in more than 140 Philadelphia elementary, middle and high schools. In Hampden County, Lowell, New Bedford and Cambridge, Massachusetts the program is running in 43 schools.

Oral Health Impact Project has been active for a second school-year in two low-income school districts in Massachusetts--Lowell Public Schools and New Bedford School District--where some 65 percent of third graders in the target population have a history of tooth decay; 40 percent have untreated tooth decay; and only 12 percent of the state's dentists accept Mass Health dental insurance, even though more than 500,000 children have a Mass Health card. The Lowell School District has enrolled between 20% and 25% of their children in this program where they have received all of the dental care that they needed.

For more information, go to http://www.ohip.us or call Ann-Marie Nieves at 914-461-4360 or Marijane Funess at 914-773-4225

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Marijane Funess

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