Wisconsin Dentists Donating $719,000 in Dental Care to 6,250 Children for Give Kids A Smile
An estimated 350 Wisconsin dentists will volunteer their time and skills, along with 934 dental team members, dental, hygiene and assisting students, faculty and community advocates, to donate more than $719,000 in oral health care and education to 6,253 of the state’s low-income children this Friday, Feb. 5 and during upcoming weeks as part of the eighth annual Give Kids A Smile® children’s dental access program.
WEST ALLIS, WIS., Feb. 2, 2010 – An estimated 350 Wisconsin dentists will volunteer their time and skills, along with 934 dental team members, dental, hygiene and assisting students, faculty and community advocates, to donate more than $719,000 in oral health care and education to 6,253 of the state’s low-income children this Friday, Feb. 5 and during upcoming weeks as part of the eighth annual Give Kids A Smile® children’s dental access program.
Statewide, $3.4 million has been provided in charitable dental care to 23,000 low-income children since 2003 when the Wisconsin Dental Association joined with the American Dental Association in launching GKAS during February’s National Children’s Dental Health Month.
GKAS 2010 will be marked nationwide by 12,780 dentists joining with 36,490 other volunteers to provide care to 322,885 children at 1,983 events. These outreach projects vary from large-scale dental clinics delivering exams, cleanings and fluoride treatments to individual dentists providing fillings, extractions and crowns to underserved children in their private practices to dental professionals offering screenings and educational programs in various locations.
In Wisconsin, the WDA and member dentists work with the state’s Department of Health Services, local government agencies, public schools, Head Start, Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth and community organizations to identify low-income children with the greatest need for dental treatment.
GKAS activities are supported by significant corporate donations from Colgate-Palmolive Company, DEXIS® Digital X-ray and Henry Schein Dental. WDA Professional Services Division’s The Dental Record makes children’s dental record forms available to Wisconsin GKAS events.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting American children – five times more common than asthma. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports 80 percent of tooth decay is found in just 25 percent of children, the majority of whom are in low-income families.
Moderate tooth decay during childhood restricts physical development, decreases the ability to learn and requires frequent emergency room visits and hospitalization. In some cases, untreated oral disease has been linked to more catastrophic illness, such as an abscess that led to a 12-year-old Maryland boy’s death in 2007.
According to a February 2005 Children’s Dental Health Project report, low-income children who have their first dental exam by age 1 are less likely to visit emergency rooms for oral health problems or require restorative care. In addition, 5-year-olds who had their first dental visit at age 1 have incurred oral health-related costs at a rate about one-half that of their peers who don’t see a dentist until age 5.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (physicians) calls for 20 percent of all health care funds spent on children to be directed at improving and maintaining their oral health.
In Wisconsin, about 1 million low-income children and adults, or 20 percent of state residents, are beneficiaries of Medicaid, BadgerCare and BadgerCare Plus programs at some point during a given year. State fee-for-service data for fiscal year 2006 (most recent available) shows that while medical assistance patients received $74 million in dental care, the state and federal governments paid just $32 million or 44 percent of those charges. This means dentists donated the remaining $42 million in care to MA patients or more than the Wisconsin and U.S. governments combined paid for.
“GKAS and nonreimbursed MA care are just two examples of how Wisconsin dentists do serve their communities and make a difference for underserved children and adults through charitable care in their private practices and by volunteering at community dental clinics, the WDA Mission of Mercy and other outreach programs,” explains WDA President Dr. Kent Vandehaar of Chippewa Falls, Wis.
“However, charity alone is not a sufficient oral health care delivery system,” Vandehaar points out. “Low-income patients suffer for various reasons: failure to care for their own oral health; inability to find a dental office for routine care, because small businesses can’t absorb too much income loss; and, lawmakers’ failure to sufficiently fund the dental care they have promised.”
Despite access-to-care concerns for the underserved and medical assistance population, the Kaiser Family Foundation “State Health Facts” Web site shows 73.2 percent of Wisconsin residents had their teeth cleaned by a dental professional in 2008 compared to 71.3 percent nationally.
A March 2009 USA Today article ranks Wisconsin seventh in the nation in percentage of residents who have seen a dentist in the last 12 months.
Categories: Dental News
Topics: Tags: american dental association, childhood, dental association, dental care, dental clinic, dental health, dental health month, dental hygiene, dental professionals, dental treatment