THURSDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- Only about one-third of U.S. children on Medicaid receives dental care in a single year, and how often these kids see a dentist depends on where they live, a new study finds.
In 2007, the prevalence of visits to the dentist ranged from 12 percent in Nevada to 49 percent in Vermont, but didn't reach 50 percent in any state or the District of Columbia, the researchers found.
The researchers also compared the 2007 findings with data from five years earlier.
"This study confirms with actual paid Medicaid claims data that access to dental services for Medicaid-eligible children has increased 16 percent nationally between 2002 and 2007, even though no state has yet reached even 50 percent access," said study co-author Dr. Allen Conan Davis, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry and former chief dental officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Although progress has been made nationally, more work needs to be done to improve access to dental services for Medicaid-eligible children, he said. "CMS has established goals for preventive dental services for the states in an effort to encourage continued improvement," he noted.
However, as with all Medicaid programs, children's dental care is a partnership between states and the federal government, Davis said.
Since eligibility rules and available dollars vary widely state by state, so does the care provided to those covered by Medicaid, he added.
Medicaid dental programs cover regular check-ups as well as needed procedures.
The report was published online June 4 and will appear in the July print issue of Pediatrics.
The researchers looked at Medicaid records and found that for infants and toddlers, the rate of dental visits was low in all but three states and peaked when they started s
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