A recent story from ABC news highlights the difficulty that low-income children have in obtaining regular dental care on Medicaid. It’s estimated that about 16 million children on Medicaid do not receive any kind of dental care, including regular cleanings and exams. According to the report from the Pew Center on the States, many hospital emergency rooms are treating young patients that come in with multiple cavities and teeth blackened from bacterial decay.
The Pew Center on the States also reports that Florida is one of the worst states for providing low-income children with dental care through Medicaid. In 2009, less than 26 percent of Florida children on Medicaid saw a dentist. 36 Florida counties, more than half, do not have a single pediatric dentist who accepts Medicaid payments.
The cause of this lack of dental care for low-income children is often attributed to the low rates paid to dentists by the Medicaid system. The Pew studies also showed that low-income families on Medicaid had very limited access to dental care unless they paid in cash.
Regular dental exams are a key component of preventative health care, especially in children. A lack of proper dental care can lead to significant medical problems, ranging from strokes to diabetes and even death. Children who fail to receive adequate dental care can be forced to go through tooth extractions and root canals before they are 10 years old.