UMass Medical School helps state get an "A" in children's dental services in new report

May 26, 2011
Children's dental services

Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, MassHealth, has made significant improvements in children’s dental health services with the help of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in just one year. According to “The State of Children’s Dental Health: Making Coverage Matter,” released from nonprofit The Pew Center on the States, the Commonwealth has climbed to an A grade from a C.

UMMS staffs the Office of Clinical Affairs, the team within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) who oversees the MassHealth oral health program.

Massachusetts is one of only seven states to receive an “A” grade in the report. Over the past year, the partnership between MassHealth and UMMS has resulted in the implementation of a number of changes that have improved the quality of and access to dental care for children. These include adding key staff and leadership — including a new dental director, Brent D. Martin, D.D.S, M.B.A. — while streamlining the administration of the program and reducing payments delays to dentists. Additionally, the state now allows dental hygienists to decide whether the children they see in school programs need sealants to protect their teeth without having to consult with a dentist.

Approximately 16 million children in the U.S. do not receive basic dental care. According to the Pew Center, tooth decay is the most common disease of childhood, and nearly three times as many children are without dental insurance than those without medical insurance.

“We are extremely proud of the extraordinary progress we have made when it comes to meeting the oral health needs of MassHealth children,” said Medicaid Director Terry Dougherty. “Partnering with UMMS in this effort has allowed us to make a positive impact on the health of these children.”

 “Oral health is a critical component of overall health care for everyone, but it is especially important for children,” said Dr. Martin, MassHealth Dental Director.

“The efforts of the Oral Health team here have been tremendous,” added David Polakoff, M.D., Director, EOHHS Office of Clinical Affairs and MassHealth Chief Medical Officer. “We are pleased to see the work of the Office of Medicaid recognized by this report, and will continue to focus on improving access to quality care for this population.”

Read the “The State of Children’s Dental Health: Making Coverage Matter” report at www.pewcenteronthestates.org.