For low-income families concerned with providing for their children’s basic needs, trying to find a dentist can be the least of many worries. Making oral health care a priority is a challenge, especially if parents have to take time off work or drive long distances for their kids to see a dentist.
In New York State, approximately 94 percent of Medicaid-eligible children under three years old did not receive any dental care during 2009, and 62 percent of children between three and five years old did not receive any dental care in 2009.
In rural areas or underserved communities, the most effective way to ensure children receive dental checkups and treatments is bringing oral health care to the places kids already go.
Part of CHOMPERS! Bringing Dental Care to Kids, Portable Dental Care is the Foundation’s program to bring dental equipment and care to Head Starts, preschools, WIC offices and community centers.
It’s most important to reach young children with oral health care, because the best opportunity to prevent dental disease is from the time kids get their first tooth to five years old. Portable Dental Care eliminates transportation concerns and other barriers to accessing preventive services and treatment.
Over the first 18 months, three Portable Dental Care sites successfully brought needed dental care to nearly 1,000 children.
Two grantees reported that 22% and 39% of children, respectively, seen through the program in the first year had never seen a dentist.
One grantee reported that, while 75-85% of kids needed restorative work in first year of the program, in year two that number was less than 40%.
Another grantee said the Portable Dental Care program “is creating awareness within the family that is about more than just serving a child, but about creating a dental relationship with an office. [We are] letting them know that dentistry is important.”
As a result of Portable Dental Care, not only have children and families gained a permanent dental home, safety net clinics have developed a sustainable new line of business.