3 Oral Health Strategies to Improve the Whole Health of Georgia’s Children

CareSource understands the importance of dental care to a family's future.

Picture of several people getting dentail care at an event with TeamSmile and CareSource

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and an opportunity to continue to improve the Whole Health of Georgia’s Children one smile at a time. Diseases that impact oral health and the ability to smile, speak and chew include cavities, tooth decay, gum (periodontal) disease and oral cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the U.S.

Child sitting in dental care getting care from a dentiist or dental hygienistPoor oral health can result in tooth and mouth pain, nutritional deficiencies from an inability to chew, facial disfiguration from swelling and potentially deadly infection, which can impact other medical conditions. In addition, poor oral health has a detrimental effect on children’s quality of life and attendance and performance at school, as well as success later in life.

Oral health disparities are profound locally and nationally for children. Low-income, minority and rural children suffer disproportionally from problems with oral health and access to care.

By the numbers for Georgia–

  • The prevalence of tooth decay among children with low socio-economic status (SES) is 50% higher than the prevalence of tooth decay among children with higher SES.
  • Hispanic children and children in rural areas have a significantly higher prevalence of tooth decay (64% and 60% respectively), compared to non-Hispanic children and children in urban areas (50% and 48% respectively).
  • Considering access to care barriers, approximately 865,000 Medicaid- or PeachCare-eligible children had to travel more than the 30-45 miles to reach a dental provider for preventive care services.
  • At CareSource, we have made it our mission to provide members with optimal access to quality oral care tailored to their needs and expectations. As a recognized national leader in managed care, working with our high-quality provider networks, we take a whole health approach to dental care because we are confident it will lead to better health outcomes.

Here are three strategies CareSource is implementing to improve the oral and overall physical health of children in our state:

  • Adding extra dental benefits and services.  Georgia Medicaid covers dental services for all child enrollees as part of a comprehensive set of benefits. However, Medicaid does not cover root canals on permanent molar teeth or permanent crowns; tobacco and substance use counseling services by dental providers; or supplemental state comprehensive orthodontic coverage, providing coverage for medically necessary limited or transitional braces.

CareSource’s whole health approach engages with our provider networks to provide a dental home for continued care and access to enhanced benefits that include these extra dental services, and more, for children.

  • Increasing community partnerships and activities. Partnering with organizations that help promote not only access to dental care and preventive services but also address social determinants of health helps raise awareness about the importance of good oral health. CareSource, for instance, recently served as the premier sponsor of an event that provided free dental care for hundreds of students at three schools in metro Atlanta resulting in over $55,486 in free dental care and oral health education provided by over 155 volunteers. The event occurred in conjunction with the Atlanta Hawks, College Park Skyhawks and TeamSmile, a national non-profit organization that provides free dental care and education for underserved children.
  • Expanding classroom education and school-based health initiatives. Encouraging children and adolescents to adopt healthy oral health habits equips them with the skills to make healthy decisions. That is why CareSource works with organizations such as R.N. Fickett elementary school in Atlanta, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA, where we implement oral health education programs and provide free oral hygiene supplies. CareSource also promotes school-based and community health with mobile dental and telehealth equipment donations that can be used by public health dental hygienists for preventive care.

When it comes to oral health, knowledge is power. By taking a whole health approach to care, we can take a big step forward to reduce dental-related problems for children so they can lead healthy, productive lives. 

To learn more about how CareSource is making a lasting impact across the state of Georgia, visit WholeHealthGA.com.

CareSource recently joined forces with TeamSmile and the College Park Skyhawks, to bring oral health professionals together to provide free dental care and preventative care services to about 250 kids from three school districts around Atlanta.

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CareSource is a nonprofit, nationally recognized managed care organization with over 2 million members and administers one of the largest Medicaid managed care plans in the U.S. As a mission-driven organization, CareSource is transforming health care with innovative programs that address the social determinants of health, health equity and access to care.

 

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