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Sue Mackey Andrews of Dover-Foxcroft is a volunteer with Serving to Fingers with Coronary heart and the Maine Highlands Working Communities Problem.
Though Mainers take pleasure within the some ways through which we function a constructive position mannequin for the remainder of the nation, oral well being is one space the place we’ve been failing our kids.
Maine ranks third to final within the nation within the proportion of kids insured by Medicaid who obtain any preventive dental care. Even amongst youngsters who’ve business dental advantages, too many go with out care.
There are lots of causes for this long-standing drawback. Maine suffers from a scarcity of dentists, and in some areas of the state, it could actually take a number of hours to journey to a dental workplace if mother and father can afford the service, have the transportation wanted, and truly can get time without work work to take their little one. This go to is normally “out of our county” and might eat a complete day — that means missed faculty and missed work.
Tooth ache can an unimaginable painful expertise for youngsters and might disrupt their schooling and the straightforward issues in life — like consuming. When youngsters have poor dentition, cavities or prematurely misplaced tooth, their vanity struggles. This situation can sadly lengthen into maturity and negatively have an effect on an individual’s means to get a job on account of poor dentition.
Dental illness is essentially preventable when youngsters have entry to early prevention and therapy. Nonetheless, in our Maine Highlands area, the place greater than half of our kids underneath age 12 are enrolled in MaineCare — the state’s Medicaid program — we’ve just one dentist who accepts MaineCare.
Dental illness plagues so many individuals in Maine that it seems we’ve forgotten it’s a illness we all know learn how to stop and deal with. Brushing, flossing and good vitamin habits are actually an essential a part of oral well being care, however ensuring youngsters can get preventive companies like fluoride varnish and sealants additionally has a serious affect. Sadly, for too many households, securing time without work from work, discovering a dentist to see their youngsters, bodily getting there and having the ability to afford the charges are all obstacles that stop youngsters from getting this important well being care.
One essential answer is the Maine Middle for Illness Management and Prevention’s College Oral Well being Program, which brings oral well being screenings, fluoride varnish and sealants proper to college students the place they already are: in class. Many adults immediately keep in mind the glory days of this program when children lined up for the pink plaque-disclosing tablets and fluoride “swish.” Fairly easy, proper? And efficient, too.
Sadly, cuts over the many years have eradicated all the state oral well being employees positions, and the college program at the moment serves solely a few third of elementary faculties within the state.
This yr, our Legislature has the chance to reverse this downward pattern. LD 1501, An Act to Shield Oral Well being for Youngsters in Maine, would broaden the College Oral Well being Program so that each one faculties can take part. The invoice would additionally restore one state oral well being coordinator place on the Maine CDC to make sure this system’s effectiveness and data-driven method, in addition to to deal with workforce shortages and supply public well being management on oral well being points for all ages in Maine.
Exploring methods to make preventive dental care extra accessible is nice for the economic system in addition to good for our well being. Each state common fund greenback spent on Medicaid dental companies brings in practically twice as a lot in federal matching funds. The restoration of a state oral well being coordinator is crucial to make Maine aggressive in making use of for accessible federal oral well being funding that we’ve been leaving on the desk.
Once we sacrifice our kids’s oral well being to save lots of a few cents, we pay a a lot worse worth; and we pay it again and again. There are lots of challenges going through the Legislature this session, however it is a winnable battle, and the time to behave is now. Oral well being is well being, and our kids want this to reach life.