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These Gaps Dentists Aren’t Fixing in PA

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For many families, Medicaid is like a hunting license  you have the opportunity to search for a dentist; you might find one and you might not  low reimbursement rates being central to that issue.
For many families, Medicaid is like a hunting license you have the opportunity to search for a dentist; you might find one and you might not low reimbursement rates being central to that issue.
June 26, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Getting some children to the dentist in Pennsylvania is like pulling teeth.

A new report from the Pew Children's Dental Campaign reveals major gaps in the care children are receiving. Campaign senior officer Jane Koppelman said the report - entitled, 'In Search of Dental Care' - finds some major pitfalls, particularly for lower-income children who call Pennsylvania home.

"More than half of your kids on Medicaid didn't see a dentist in 2011; they didn't even go in for a routine exam," she said. "You've got a considerable portion of dentists that are over age 55, so they're nearing retirement."

Koppelman said the issue of dentists not accepting Medicaid is a special concern, since dental care is covered.

"For many families, Medicaid is like a hunting license," she said. "You have the opportunity to search for a dentist; you might find one and you might not - low reimbursement rates being central to that issue."

A partial solution to lack of access to proper dental care may come with some states considering licensing a newer type of practitioner, known as a dental therapist, "who is sufficiently trained to do a small scope of procedures, including fillings," she said. "These are people who are more likely to be able to get into the areas and serve people in areas where dentists just are not."

The study shows one in 10 youths in Pennsylvania lives in an area with a shortage of dentists, Koppelman said. National standards set by dental and pediatric groups call for children to visit a dentist every six months.

The report is online at pewstates.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA