Omitting dental benefit for kids a terrible mistake

Re: “Advocates rush to put teeth in new insurance exchange,” March 15 news story.

Your reporting on the lack of a mandatory pediatric dental benefit in Colorado’s health exchange is missing some critical facts that underscore the importance and urgency of the issue.

Oral health is intrinsically linked to overall health. Leaving out a mandatory dental benefit in the exchange will undermine gains in overall health that the Affordable Care Act seeks to make.

The research is clear: A child or adult with a healthy mouth is much more likely to have better overall health. And vice versa: Those with dental disease are far more likely to develop other costly health problems.

The statistics on the need are just as clear:

• Dental disease is the most common childhood disease. Cavities are five times more prevalent than asthma.

• Dental disease is the No. 1 reason children are admitted to the operating room at the Children’s Hospital Colorado.

• Dental disease is the No. 1 reason children in Colorado miss school.

• Dental disease costs the state more than $1 billion a year, according to estimates from the governor’s office.

• People with dental insurance are more than twice as likely to see a dentist than those without insurance.

What’s more, this disease is almost 100 percent preventable. As the Colorado Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program has shown over the past decade, we can make tremendous progress in the oral health of our children with relatively low levels on investment.

For these reasons and more, Gov. John Hickenlooper named oral health one of the state’s priority Winnable Battles. He should continue that leadership by advocating for a mandatory dental benefit in Colorado’s exchange.

All Colorado children enrolled in the health exchange should have a dental benefit that includes preventive services such as sealants and fluoride varnish.

This one step would help ensure fewer children end up in an operating room because of dental disease and would put more children on a path to preventative medicine that reduces health care costs for all.

Read more: Denver post /  Omitting dental benefit for kids a terrible mistake – The Denver Post


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