Ohio meets five of eight policy benchmarks aimed at addressing children's dental needs, yet unmet oral health needs are a major concern.1
The state continues to deliver fluoridated water to most of its residents on community systems and sealant programs to most of its high-risk schools. A 2010 law slightly eased the requirement for a prior dental exam before hygienists could apply sealants on children's teeth in school settings. Unfortunately, the statute retains an unnecessary obstacle—a dentist must review the medical and dental history for every child seen in a school sealant program.2
A budget crisis prompted Ohio to reduce its Medicaid adult dental services in 2010.3 The state also faces significant challenges with its dental workforce. At least 1 million Ohioans live in 59 areas federally designated as having a shortage of dentists. Public health advocates, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have launched a campaign to address the state's dental access issue by licensing dental therapists to provide care.4
1. Ohio Department of Health, “Oral Health and Access to Dental Care for Ohioans, 2010,” http://www.odh.ohio.gov/ASSETS/9D4A2E944B9E46899133641ED035531B/
Oral%20Health%20Access_2010%20exec%20sum%20update.pdf (accessed March 15, 2011).
2. Ohio Revised Code 4715.366. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4715.366 (accessed December 7, 2010). Ohio Revised Code 4715.365. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4715.365 (accessed December 7, 2010).
3. V. Smith et. al., “Hoping for Economic Recovery, Preparing for Health Reform: A Look at Medicaid Spending, Coverage and Policy Trends Results from a 50-State Medicaid Budget Survey for State Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011,” Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (September 2010); http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/8105.pdf (accessed October 20, 2010).
4. K. Reincke and D. Jordan, “W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports community-led efforts in five states to increase oral health care access by adding dental therapists to the new team,” W.K. Kellogg Foundation, November 17, 2010.