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Wisconsin trails other states in child dental-care

MADISON (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Wisconsin is the second-worst state in the country in providing dental care to low-income kids. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that 71-and-a-half percent of Wisconsin children on Medicaid did not see a dentist in 2011. Only Florida was worse.

The Pew study also said Wisconsin dentists get the nation’s fifth-lowest reimbursements to serve patients in programs like Badger-Care. Milwaukee dentist Monica Hebl, a past president of the Wisconsin Dental Association, says the state spends less than one-percent of its Medicaid budget on dental care – and the reimbursement rates have not been raised in years. Because of that, most dentists limit the number of Medicaid patients they see. Hebl says many people assume that dental health is only a cosmetic thing – and it’s not. She says poor dental care has been linked to heart problems and diabetes. Some studies show that poor dental care by pregnant women is linked to underweight babies.

Claire Smith of the state Health Services Department says her agency does what it can within its budget constraints. Smith says the state provides funding to a number of facilities to serve low-income kids. The state also supports a program that provides dental screenings and sealants in poorer schools. Smith also said the new state budget would add more affordable dental care, by increasing the numbers of dentists in underserved communities.