Improving children’s dental health

Commonwealth Medicine team helps MassHealth gets an “A” for children’s dental services

By Mark Shelton

UMass Medical School Communications

June 01, 2011
Child at at dentist 

Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, MassHealth, has made significant improvements in children’s dental health services, thanks to a Commonwealth Medicine team that brought academic medical center expertise to a seemingly intractable problem. According to “The State of Children’s Dental Health: Making Coverage Matter,” a new report released from the Pew Center on the States, the commonwealth has climbed to a grade of A grade from a C in one year. 

UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine staffs the Office of Clinical Affairs, the team within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) that oversees the MassHealth oral health program.

Massachusetts is one of only seven states to receive an A 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, DDS, MBA—while streamlining administration of the program and reducing payment delays to dentists. Additionally, the state now allows dental hygienists to decide, without having to consult with a dentist, whether the children they see in school programs need sealants to protect their teeth 

Approximately 16 million children in the United States 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 as 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. 

“The efforts of the Oral Health team here have been tremendous,” added David Polakoff, MD, EOHHS Office of Clinical Affairs director 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