Study: Minnesota lags in providing dental care to disadvantaged kidsby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A national study says Minnesota needs to do more to help disadvantaged kids access dental care. The state received a "C" grade on its dental policies from the Pew Center on the States.
Pew measured the performance of all 50 states and the District of Columbia on whether they are abiding by eight well-established policy solutions that enhance children's access to dental care. The policies include preventative dental care services covered by the Medicaid program, fluoridated public water supplies and establishing a new category of dental provider to compensate for dentist shortages.
Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign, said Minnesota only met four of the eight policy measurements.
"Well a 'C' grade in general means that the state is off-track," she said. "There are some efforts that they have made and those are to be applauded. But there are many more things that the state can do."
Minnesota received average marks, in part, because the state doesn't have a strong sealant program to prevent cavities in young children.
"What we have to try to do is to make sure we get sealants available through school-based programs that target kids who are at the highest risk of dental problems. That's been shown to be a cost-effective strategy. And yet it's vastly underutilized," said Gehshan.
Minnesota also lost points because it pays dentists less for serving kids in the Medicaid program than the national average. The state also doesn't report its basic screening data to a national surveillance system.
Pew researchers say states that subscribe to all eight policy solutions will save money on health care costs over the long-term.
Just six states earned an "A" in the report for meeting at least six of the eight policy benchmarks. They are Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
Nine states earned an "F" including Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, Hawaii, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming. New Jersey ranked lowest in the nation, meeting only one benchmark.
No state met all eight targets, which can be found in the report.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and DentaQuest Foundation also collaborated on the report.