Washington's ABCD Program

Improving Dental Care for Medicaid-Insured Children

This 2010 Pew Center on the States report looked at how dental care remains the greatest unmet need for health services among children. Washington's ABCD Program: Improving Dental Care for Medicaid-Insured Children, surveyed the remarkable impact that one program in Washington state made in confronting dental disease among Medicaid-insured children under age six.

Since its inception in 1994, the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) program has been established in 30 of Washington's 39 counties and demonstrated impressive results:

  • Between 1997 and 2004, the number of Medicaid-enrolled children who received annual dental care more than doubled, from 40,000 to 107,000. 
  • The number of enrolled children visiting the dentist before their second birthday has more than quadrupled. 
  • Children in ABCD averaged 2.4 dental visits per year, while children on Medicaid but not enrolled in the program averaged less than one visit per year. 

ABCD fosters strong collaboration between dentists, public health leaders and parents to achieve its goals, including:

  • enrolling Medicaid-eligible children by age one; 
  • educating their families and caregivers about dental hygiene and eating habits; and 
  • training dentists in the best care practices for young children. 

The program's resilience, even amid state budget shortfalls, is a tribute to its solid results and efficient public-private financing model.  Other states would be smart to consider the approach taken by Washington's policy makers and dental health community.

Media Contact

Mary McNamara

Manager, Communications