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National Children’s Dental Health Month: Northeast Michigan Facing Gaps in Dental Health

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

The state of Michigan, including Northeast Michigan is still facing gaps in access to quality dental care.

According to the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health, children in countrysides or urban communities are affected most when it comes to dental health.

One strategy to address this issue is to increase access to care by allowing mid level dental providers called ‘dental therapists’ to treat children.

A hired dental therapist would be trained and licensed to deliver routine care such as filling cavities, which is a common reason for children being absent in school.

“In very young children you can see ‘bottle rot’ where the teeth haven’t developed healthy. When children aren’t brushing regularly or don’t have regular cleanings they can have cavities. Untreated dental issues are a large driver of cavities. If you have a cavity that goes unfilled that can result in pain making it hard for a child to be able to function in school,” Executive Director of Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health, Amy Zaagman said.

Many children are insured through public insurance making it difficult to access a dental location. There is at least one dental lack area in 77 of Michigan’s 83 counties including Alpena County.

Nearly 60% of children on Medicaid did not see a dentist in 2015 placing Michigan in the bottom ten states in the nation.