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Child health

Az lags in dental health policies for kids

One in five U.S. children don't get regular dental care

Arizona meets only half of eight goals designed to ensure children get proper dental care.

A study by the Pew Center on the States found that at least one in five U.S. children go without dental care each year.

Arizona is one of 36 states that received a C grade or lower, which means it met no more than half the policy benchmarks set by the non-profit policy analysis group.

USA Today reports:

"Americans will be spending $106 billion on dental care this year," said Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. Much of that care pays for costly treatments such as fillings and root canals, which have their origins in poor childhood dental care, she said."

According to the study, the state reimburses dentists for Medicaid patients at a level that exceeds the national average, and there has been an increase in the number of Medicaid-enrolled kids who visit the dentist - although that number still lags behind that of privately insured children.

About 40 percent of Arizona’s children on Medicaid saw a dentist in 2007, the latest year for which data are available, up from only 24 percent in 2000.

Arizona does not reimburse medical providers for offering basic preventive dental services to Medicaid-enrolled children, and the state’s sealant program reaches less than one-quarter of high-risk schools, according to the study.

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Arizona policy benchmarks

  1. State has sealant programs in place in at least 25 percent of high-risk schools. No, state reaches less than 25 percent.
  2. State does not require a dentist's exam before a hygienist sees a child in a school sealant program. Yes, state meets or exceeds.
  3. State provides optimally fluoridated water to at least 75 percent of citizens on community systems. Yes
  4. State meets or exceeds the national average (38.1 percent) of children ages one to 18 on Medicaid receiving dental services. Yes
  5. State pays dentists who serve Medicaid-enrolled children at least the national average (60.5 percent) of Medicaid rates as a percentage of dentists’ median retail fees. Yes, 76 percent
  6. State Medicaid program reimburses medical care providers for preventive dental health services. No
  7. State has authorized a new primary care dental provider. No
  8. State submits basic screening data to the national database. Yes
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Many children don't have regular dental care, according to a new Pew Center study.

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