The Wisconsin State Journal‘s David Wahlberg reports that access to adequate dental care is a major public health issue throughout the state, especially among Medicaid recipients. Federally funded clinics are starting to fill the gaps, but there is still quite a bit of catching up to do. Waiting lists are long, and it’s the nature of remedial dental care that getting each mouth back on track is a long and involved process.
Dentists told Wahlberg that they are reluctant to serve Medicaid recipients because the state’s reimbursement rates are too low. According to HHS, Wahlberg writes, “Just 23 percent of the state’s enrollees got dental care in 2008. Only Delaware, Florida and Kentucky fared worse.”
Rural areas have only about half as many dentists per person as urban areas do, making the search for dental care even harder in small towns.
That, combined with low fluoride levels in many rural drinking water supplies, means more tooth loss and untreated decay for many rural residents, state health officials say.
“Of all of the holes (in health care), dental care is the biggest and the deepest,” said Greg Nycz, executive director of the Family Health Center of Marshfield, which serves much of rural, northern Wisconsin.
The article is the latest in Wahlberg’s yearlong look at rural health care. Wahlberg will be moderating a panel about oral health for rural residents at next week’s Rural Health Journalism Workshop in Kansas City.