On January 1, state lawmakers cut dental insurance for most of the 400,000 adults who use Medicaid. Unfortunately, the newly underinsured are far from alone: Nearly half of all Washington adults have no dental coverage.
That’s a real problem for kids, because fewer adults getting care could result in fewer kids getting care.
Research shows that children whose parents received preventive dental care are five times more likely to visit a dentist compared to children whose parents received no dental care. Another study of Medicaid families found children were 13 times more likely to visit a dentist during a year when their parents did the same.
These studies illustrate the need to ensure that low-income adults have access to dental services -- not only for their own health, but for the health of their children.
Improvements in the oral health of Washington’s children vary, according to a recent survey. Parts of the state, including King County, show no significant decrease in the rates of untreated decay. Put simply, the same percentage of kids who lived in pain five years ago live in pain today.
Statewide, half of all third graders have tooth decay and those who suffer the worst oral health are disproportionally our most vulnerable kids. Low-income children and children of color are twice as likely to have untreated dental disease, and as much as four times more likely to have rampant decay.
Oral health is vital to overall health. Dental problems impact a child’s ability to eat, learn and play. The Children’s Alliance is happy to announce the continued support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in a multi-year effort to bring attention to oral health disparities in Washington and help level the playing field for our most vulnerable children.