The Institute of Medicine (IOM) just released a report concluding that too many Americans lack access to oral health care, which can have serious consequences for overall health. To address the problem, the IOM recommends that oral health be integrated into overall health care and that advocacy be used to help shape policies that will improve access, especially for young children.
Washington has been ahead of the curve in expanding access to early care for very young children. The Access to Baby and Children Dentistry (ABCD) program connects Medicaid-enrolled children up to age 6 to dental care in 34 of 39 Washington counties. More than twice as many Medicaid-enrolled children received dental care in 2009 as compared to 1997 when ABCD started. In addition, since 2002, nearly one in three primary care providers have been trained by Arcora Foundation to address children’s oral health by incorporate oral health into well-child checkups.
The IOM report emphasizes that oral health is a vital part of overall health. Washington is making progress, yet too many low-income children and adults in our state still suffer from preventable dental disease. Dental disease prevention improves overall health and saves money. That’s why prevention needs to be a priority even when budgets are tight.