State gets an ‘A’ for children’s dental health policies

Connecticut was among seven states to receive an “A” grade for its oral health care policies for children, according to the Pew Center on the States’ annual report card on children’s dental health.

The report card ranks states on eight policy benchmarks. Connecticut met six, the same as last year. The state tops the national average in the percentage of residents with fluoridated community water supplies and the share of dentists’ median retail fees that got reimbursed by Medicaid in 2010, although it fell from the year before.

In addition, a higher percentage of Medicaid-enrolled children in Connecticut received dental care than the national average in 2009, but the proportion, 42.5 percent, was still below the rate–58 percent–among children with private insurance. More children in Medicaid have been getting dental care since then, according to the Connecticut State Dental Association.

The state did not meet the benchmark of having at least 25 percent of high-risk schools with sealant programs through which students can receive molar coatings that can prevent decay. The report card also counts whether states authorize a new type of primary care dental providers known as dental therapists, to address workforce shortages. So far, only Minnesota has a law to authorize them.

“Although we are pleased with our ‘A,’ we still have some work to do in order to maintain the Medicaid rates for children and to ensure that adults and the elderly also have access to dental care,” said Dr. Tatiana Barton, president of the state dental association.

Nationwide, Pew noted, children lack dental insurance at nearly three times the rate of health insurance.