Access to dental care a problem for poorer families

December 2nd, 2010
Access to dental care a problem for poorer families

A report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that children in poorer families are still having difficulties in accessing dental care.

Families on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are still finding it difficult to get appointments with local dental professionals, despite promises that action would be taken to remedy the situation.

The congressional report looked at the current level of dental access for poorer families, finding that  less than 37% of the children in Medicaid received dental care in 2008, still way below the HHS’s Healthy People 2010 target of 66%.

The report found that some of the information available to low-income families about local dental facilities was either difficult to find or inaccurately compiled. One example included in the final report was the HHS’s Insure Kids Now Web site, which specifically provide contact information for families on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Researchers found that many of the contact details for dentists’ offices were either incorrect or were for disconnected numbers.

“Providing complete and accurate information to help families…find dental care is an important tool in improving access,” the report stated.

Poor oral health is a major problem amongst children from low income families in the US. A Surgeon General report from 2000, noted that tooth decay was the “silent epidemic of oral disease affecting the nation’s poor children.” This recent report indicates that high levels of tooth decay and gum disease are still being reported amongst the country’s poorest children and that the “challenge of finding dentists to treat them are long-standing concerns.”

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