Recognizing that the vast majority of children under age five in upstate New York are not receiving regular dental care because parents aren't aware that their children should be seen by a dentist starting at age one, Dr. Wilson recently sent the following letter to all pediatricians and family care practices within 50 miles of Binghamton.
Dear Doctor and/or Nurse:
My name is Michael Wilson and I am a general dentist in Binghamton. In March 2008, we opened Wilson Dental (no affiliation with any hospital) to address the overwhelming access-to-care problems for Medicaid adults and children in the Southern Tier. Due to the transportation difficulties that exist for many Medicaid patients, we have recently purchased a 15-passenger van and are doing weekly pickups in Oneonta, Ithaca, Elmira, and Norwich.
As I'm sure you know, dental care is the single greatest unmet health need among children in the United States. The problem is particularly acute for children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. In upstate New York, the problem has been aggravated due to the acute shortage of dentists accepting Medicaid. Equally as important as access to dental care is the active participation of primary care providers in the oral health of their Medicaid patients. Most children (especially from low-income backgrounds) see their primary care provider much more frequently than they see their dentist (if they even have one) in the first years of life. Many children in upstate New York do not grow up with fluoridated water, which means that (in addition to not seeing the dentist) many children get very little exposure to fluoride in their early years. These factors combine to create a very high prevalence of early childhood caries (ECC).
However, the situation also creates a wonderful opportunity for physicians and nurses. As the only health-care providers who see the children (and their parents) on a regular basis during these very young years, you can foster an awareness of oral health. Also, tri-annual application of fluoride varnish can cut early childhood caries rates by one-third. Last September, Medicaid made a change so that medical practices can now get reimbursed ($30) for applying fluoride varnish. The procedure takes less than five minutes and can be performed up to three times per year under Medicaid's guidelines. This, in combination with providing some basic education on oral health and encouraging parents/guardians to take their child to the dentist starting at age one, can have a huge impact.
If you are interested, Wilson Dental's pediatric dentists, Dr Kelly Kim and Dr JP Kim, and I, would be happy to offer you and your staff a Lunch and Learn session to demonstrate how to apply the fluoride varnish, as well as a quick overview of children's oral health. The session shouldn't take more than 45 minutes.
Together we can eradicate this longstanding and previously intractable problem that afflicts the youngest members of our communities.
For more information, please call me at 917-880-1617 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Wilson, DDS