Smiles of Relief
Better dental care for kids
Thousands of low-income kids got a break last month when a state-funded dental insurance program expanded into Washtenaw County. Administered by Delta Dental, the program pays private dentists to provide cleanings and treatment. Previously, low-income kids had to rely on Medicaid, and because "Medicaid paid such ludicrously low rates, most dentists refused to accept" it, says child health advocate Kelly Stupple.
The change comes just in time. In late summer, the well-regarded Washtenaw Children's Dental Clinic, located inside Mack School, decided to close. "We're running out of supplies, money, and dentists," explains director Tammy Kraeger, a hygienist and the clinic's only paid employee. The clinic--which charged a bare-bones $25 for a cleaning and X-rays, and saw some kids for free--had struggled since losing half its funding in the Great Recession. The final straw was the retirement of two of its most dedicated volunteer dentists. Stupple, who's affiliated with the county's Success by Six program, says she's confident that, with the promise of adequate reimbursement, she'll be able to find new "dental homes" for all of the clinic's 200 or so young patients.
[Originally published in November, 2013.]