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Follow the latest news and information from the Michigan Dental Association. We’ll keep you updated on current association activities, including the local community involvement of our member dentists.

Michigan lawmakers have voted to add Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties to the Healthy Kids Dental program, which will now serve more than 800,000 low-income children in all 83 Michigan counties.

The program’s expansion will not only increase access to dental care, but should also pay off by reducing emergency medical care. The Michigan Dental Association has been a long-term supporter of expanding the Healthy Kids Dental program.

Statewide expansion of the program, a partnership between the Michigan Dental Association, Delta Dental of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Community Health, has been a longtime goal of Gov. Rick Snyder. Lawmakers appropriated $12.7 million to cover the last three counties starting Oct. 1, 2015. Children age 0 to 12 in Medicaid-eligible families are covered.

“Expanding access to care through Healthy Kids Dental helps children develop good oral health habits that can mean a lifetime of better overall health,” said Dr. Mark Johnston, a Lansing dentist and president of the MDA. “The bonus for taxpayers is that ultimately it also helps keep children out of costly hospital emergency rooms, where treatment is much more expensive than seeing a dentist.”

Healthy Kids Dental is considered a national model for improving access to dental care for underserved children. The program reimburses dentists at rates comparable to those of private insurance plans, creating a broad network of dentists. Nearly 80 percent of Michigan dentists participate in Healthy Kids Dental, so children enrolled in the program are more likely to receive dental care than those enrolled in traditional Medicaid.

Dental decay is one of the most common childhood diseases, occurring in over half of all children between the ages of 5 and 9. And it is almost entirely preventable.

By increasing access to preventive care, the program heads off more severe, costly dental problems down the road. In addition, Healthy Kids Dental also helps keep children in school by preventing pain caused by untreated dental disease, which is a leading cause of lost school hours.

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