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Nearly 1 million low-income Michiganians under age 21 enrolled in Medicaid have dental coverage at no cost to their families through Healthy Kids Dental.

Healthy Kids Dental is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Delta Dental of Michigan designed to help children with Medicaid receive dental care.

With HKD expanded in October 2016, more children now have access to dental exams, cleanings, X-rays, fillings, fluoride treatments, sealants and more at no cost to their families.

Based on studies affirming HKD’s effectiveness in improving access to dental care, Michigan lawmakers and governors on both sides of the aisle have expanded the program through the years. It’s now available in every Michigan county. And while a growing number of children are participating in HKD since its launch, more could receive dental care if we spread the word about the program. It’s up to us to make sure that children with Medicaid receive quality dental care. If you work with children who have Medicaid, you can spread the word. Let’s make sure every child who has HKD, uses it.

This is a goal worth reaching since good oral health is important to overall well-being. Children miss 51 million hours of school every year due to dental problems, which means they miss critical instruction time. Further, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in America, affecting 50 percent of first-graders. Increasing access to dental care produces healthier children who are more likely to succeed in school and in life.

And because more than 80 percent of Michigan’s dentists participate in HKD, finding a dentist close to home is easy. Studies show children with HKD coverage are more likely to receive dental treatment than those with traditional Medicaid fee-for-service dental coverage. In fact, dental visits are substantially higher for children who have HKD, and children are more likely to have a “dental home.”

It’s the perfect time to talk about the importance of good oral health and to encourage regular dental visits. Let’s start by encouraging all parents and caregivers to make their children’s dental health a priority, and for those with HKD, let’s encourage them to use it.

To learn more about HKD, visit healthykidsdental.org

Laura Czelada, CPA, is president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Michigan.

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