Rhode Island meets five of the eight policy benchmarks aimed at addressing children's dental health needs. The state dropped one letter grade after examination of its rules governing dental hygienists' ability to place sealants on students' teeth in school-based programs. Although the relevant statute has not changed since last year, policy makers recently clarified that a dentist's screening is necessary before a hygienist can place a sealant.
Rhode Island offers fluoridated water to almost 85 percent of its residents and has provided dental services to almost 47 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children.
The state's RIte Smiles managed-care program may play a role in the relatively high levels of access for low-income Rhode Island kids. A 2010 report evaluated the program's impact and showed that over a recent six-year span, the percentage of Medicaid-enrolled children under age seven who received a preventive dental visit—an oral exam, for example—rose by 26 percent.1
1. “Rite Smiles Evaluation Report: Trends from 2002-2008,” Rhode Island Department of Human Services, May 17, 2010, http://www.dhs.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Public/Reports/ritesmiles_trends_2002_2008.pdf (accessed April 14, 2011).
2. Weighted average of fee-for-service and managed care payment rates.