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Reason to Smile: More MN Children Expected to See the Dentist

PHOTO: More children across Minnesota are expected to gain dental care, as it's an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: Carl Wycoff
PHOTO: More children across Minnesota are expected to gain dental care, as it's an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: Carl Wycoff
March 4, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - It is the most common chronic childhood disease, and across Minnesota and the country there are new requirements that could help take a bite out of kids' tooth decay. Pediatric dental care is one of the essential benefits under the Affordable Care Act, meaning it must be offered, whether it's part of a health plan or as an optional stand-alone.

That should help get more children in the chair, according to Carmelo Cinqueonce, executive director of the Minnesota Dental Association.

"There are children who go without care and there are adults that go without care, so it's important the more we can do to make sure that patients have coverage, and also have an opportunity to see a dentist," he said.

As a result of the ACA, it's estimated that as many as 8.7 million people age 21 and younger will gain dental coverage nationwide by 2018.

Dr. Paul Reggiardo, spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, said tooth decay and untreated cavities in childhood can lead to serious pain, and the negative effects can spread from there.

"Kids who are suffering with pain, they're not getting adequate nutrition. Their school performance is affected. Their learning is affected. A child in pain is not going to be able to sit attentively in school and listen," he said. "And so, the implications go well beyond just having cavities."

The next major deadline under the Affordable Care Act is just weeks away. The first open enrollment period ends March 31 for those wanting a plan this year through the health insurance marketplace.

ACA dental plan information is at 1.usa.gov/1ohO59Y. ADA benefit examination is at ADA.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN