Children whose families qualify for Medicaid are now eligible to receive free dental care in Washtenaw, Ingham and Ottawa counties through the Healthy Kids Dental program. Beginning today, 64,000 kids are added to the program which provides dental coverage to about half a million children in Michigan.
The Michigan budget was expanded to include this coverage. Angela Minicuci with the Michigan Department of Community Health says the program will hopefully expand to the five remaining counties that aren't yet covered under the program -- Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent and Kalamazoo.
"Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease," she said. "They have untreated dental problems, which means they're less prepared to succeed in the classroom."
Nichole VanBlaricum lives in Washtenaw County. Her son was eligible for the Healthy Kids Dental program when they lived in Marquette. But that changed when they moved.
"He had to get one filling done and it cost us $200," she said. "We have a very limited income coming in. That $200 makes a huge difference."
The Healthy Kids Dental program is administered by the insurance company Delta Dental. These three counties were added to the program in the state budget which takes affect today.
"When children don't have access to oral health care, they're more likely to have overall health problems. They're more likely to miss school as well," said Minicuci.
VanBlaricum says she spent a year and a half looking for a dentist that would take Medicaid dental insurance.
"Our son had started getting cavities, and because it took us so long to find a dentist they had worsened significantly. "He ended up having to get two of his bottom teeth pulled," she said. "He had to miss a lot of school to go to the dentist appointments once we were able to get him a dentist."
VanBlaircum says the Healthy Kids Dental program will expand dental care options for her family.
Dental visits are 50 percent higher for children who are enrolled in the program.
-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom