Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has awarded $5.1 million in grants to 14 nonprofit dental clinics to increase access to dental care in our state. Grant awards range from $59,000 to $150,000 per clinic over three years and will enable the selected clinics to serve more children and families in need, including Medicaid members, people who have low income, people with disabilities, and people who are uninsured.
"This funding creates more access to important oral health services," said Dr. Russell Dunkel, Wisconsin State Dental Director. "In 2021, only one in three Wisconsin Medicaid members ages 3 to 20 received a preventive dental service and, in that same year, seven out of 10 Medicaid members didn’t receive dental care. By making it easier for dental health providers to serve more Medicaid and uninsured patients, we aim to address a critical disparity."
Lack of access to dental health services impacts people throughout their life. In Wisconsin, one in five children and nearly one in three adults with low income have untreated tooth decay. Untreated decay can lead to pain and infection, which impacts a child’s ability to speak, eat, and learn. Research shows children with a poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school due to dental pain and, on average, it is estimated that unplanned dental care results in 34 million school hours lost each year in the United States.
As a result of this funding, nonprofit dental clinics will be able to serve 7,000 more patients over the three-year period. This increase includes more than 4,700 Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus patients and more than 2,700 patients who have low income or are uninsured. That amounts to a nearly 17.5% increase.
In addition to the $5.1 million in funding, Wisconsin is helping dental clinics increase the number of Medicaid patients they serve by providing enhanced reimbursement to oral health providers for each service they provide. Huge strides could be made in addressing dental health issues in our state if every dentist license in Wisconsin took on one Medicaid patient per week, or even per month.
"This funding won’t address the dental disparity in Wisconsin alone, but increasing access to services is key," said Paula Tran, State Health Officer for Wisconsin. "Efforts to increase access to dental care and increase reimbursement for dental services go a long way to helping ensure more Wisconsinites have the opportunity to not only have brighter smiles, but better health today and in the future."
A full list of the funded clinics is on the DHS website, as is information about free or low-cost dental care providers across the state.