More must be done to improve oral health

On Oct. 1, thanks to the overwhelming bipartisan support of the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder, the highly successful Healthy Kids Dental (HKD) program will expand to cover Medicaid-eligible children under age 21 in all of Michigan’s 83 counties.

This is a milestone worth celebrating because good oral health is very important to one’s overall health and well-being.

Preventive and regular dental care is as essential to a child’s overall health as is medical, vision and hearing care. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, adults and children without dental coverage are 2.5 times less likely to visit the dentist than those with insurance.

The U.S. surgeon general has called oral disease a “silent epidemic.” This is why we need to take even more steps to improve dental health for children and adults alike.

First, we need to require a dental assessment for all children entering kindergarten. For more than 60 years, Michigan children entering kindergarten have been required to have their vision and hearing checked. A dental assessment is not required—even though one in four Michigan third-graders have untreated dental disease, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. By screening the 130,000 children who start kindergarten in Michigan each year, we can catch dental disease before it causes serious problems and avoid health issues that may impact children’s learning and school attendance.

Further, we need to work together to ensure that every family understands the importance of good oral health and that all children receive the dental care they need.

Let’s start by encouraging parents and caregivers to make a dental visit part of their child’s back-to-school routine and, for those who have HKD, let’s encourage them to use it.

Laura Czelada, president

Delta Dental of Michigan

To learn more about HKD or to find an HKD dentist nearby, parents can visit deltadentalmi.com/hkd or call Delta Dental’s customer service toll-free at 800-482-8915.