Chris J. Wiant: Dental care still an issue

To the editor:

A recent report issued by the Pew Center on the States highlights the fact that dental care remains the greatest unmet health need among U.S. children. For adults, the Colorado Health Access Survey revealed that nearly four in 10 Coloradans lacked dental insurance in 2011 and nearly one in four Coloradans (approximately 1.2 million people) did not get needed dental care due to cost.  

Caring for Colorado Foundation has been working since 2002 to increase access to dental care for underserved Coloradans and to improve oral health outcomes among children. The Foundation’s recent report “Ten Years of Oral Health Grantmaking” shows that through community investments improvements can be realized. From 2002 to 2012, the Foundation and its partners helped to add 95,000 annual patient visits to the oral health safety net; 10 new nonprofit dental clinics were established in 14 rural communities; 13,000 children in rural and underserved areas of Colorado receive annual dental sealants and fluoride treatments while in school; and more than 50,000 children younger than 3 receive risk assessment, education and fluoride treatments during well child care through the Cavity Free at Three program.

In 1999, the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition began its work by bringing the KIND Miles for Smiles mobile dental van to Craig once a year to provide care to underserved children. This effort revealed an overwhelming amount of dental disease in the area’s children, thus inspiring the coalition to develop the Northwest Colorado Dental Clinic, with a mission to provide high-quality dental care to low-income and uninsured children in region. With a lead grant of $450,000 from Caring for Colorado, and subsequent funding totaling $612,200, the clinic today serves children in five counties and provides 2,150 unique patient visits a year in Craig, Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.

Caring for Colorado is committed to working with our partners to ensure that all Coloradans, regardless of where they live or their income level, have access to dental care and that children receive early, ongoing preventive care so they grow up free of dental disease and with improved overall health.

Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D.

Caring for Colorado

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