Low-income children are five times more likely to suffer from untreated tooth decay compared to children with greater means, leading to suffering in adolescence and long-term health problems that can be easily prevented. And, in addition to health problems, there are also long-term social issues associated with untreated tooth decay – such as social stigmatization and problems finding employment.
All of this has economic implications. Dental procedures resulting from untreated tooth decay may require hospitalization and extensive treatment for children, which incur considerable cost to Medicaid and other health care payers. A 2014 study found the total cost of emergency department visits involving dental conditions during the three-year study period to be $2.7 billion, with 40% of all dental-related visits being made by uninsured patients. Meanwhile, children with dental problems are also more likely to miss school and have a lower grade point average, when compared to children without oral pain.
Clearly, reducing the burden of childhood dental disease is integral to one’s overall health, wellness, and economic opportunity throughout the lifespan. So how do we work together to improve oral health care?
It starts with prevention, in clinical and community settings, that incorporates education, training, and improved care coordination.
Primary prevention interventions and activities, like these listed above, notably reduce the rates of dental disease. Implementing these solutions can reduce the number of children needing treatment, alleviate the cost burden on the health care system (currently and in the future), and impact a child’s long-term health and economic potential. It’s time to take action, and Altarum can help states do just that.
Any state working to reduce the burden of childhood dental disease can boost their state’s impact by adopting SmileConnect. SmileConnect is an integrated care model that is proven to increase the number of Medicaid-eligible children receiving preventive oral health services, resources, and dental referrals. Created with funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, SmileConnect combines referral technology, provider education, and community integration for a comprehensive solution that achieves lasting results. Learn more: www.SmileConnect.org
SmileConnect SpecialistAreas of Expertise
Allyson leads expansion efforts for SmileConnect, working with states and organizations to determine scalability, feasibility, and pricing. She has been part of the program (formerly known as the Michigan Caries Prevention Program) since its launch in 2014 and has provided expertise in evaluation, marketing, and project management. Allyson holds a master’s degree in Health and Risk Communication.