On Jan. 8, 2013, the Pew Center on the States gave the state of Wisconsin an “A” for its efforts to help reduce tooth decay in low-income children through the use of dental sealants. In the 50-state report titled, “Falling Short: Most States Lag on Dental Sealants” the Badger State received 10 out of a possible 11 points with sealant programs in 50 to 74 percent of its high-need schools.
In Wisconsin, approximately 1 million children and adults (20 percent of state residents) benefit from state dental medical assistance during a 12-month period. State fee-for-service MA data for fiscal year 2010 shows $146.6 million in dental care was provided to enrollees. However, state and federal governments paid just $58 million (39 percent) toward that care with participating dentists donating the balance of $88.6 million in services. Note the dental community donates more in care than what is paid for by the state and federal governments combined.
The WDA and its more than 3,000 member dentists and dental hygienists have developed some basic “Healthy Choices” proposals to help reduce barriers to oral health care across our state. Policymakers, dental professionals, patients and parents/caregivers have an opportunity to work together on “Healthy Choices” and do a better job of reducing barriers to dental care for Wisconsin residents by:
- Ensuring more people receive dental care more easily
- Encouraging early prevention to stop dental problems before they start
- Offering real incentives for new dentists to settle in underserved areas
- Better supporting the state’s dental assistance programs
Preventing dental disease is more than a one-time, school-based event. It requires healthy dietary habits and good daily oral hygiene. Routine dental visits for professional examinations and X-rays, fluoride supplements, dental sealants and diagnosis, treatment planning and necessary restorative care by a dentist are also important to preventing dental disease.
The WDA looks forward to working with state and federal legislators, the Governor’s office, the Department of Health Services and other oral health advocates to make oral health a priority and Wisconsin a terrific – and healthy – place to live.