Maine Dental Association launches pilot program

Posted March 24, 2014, at 11:03 a.m.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Delta Dental Plan of Maine was awarded the Maine Dental Association grant in January to support the creation of a pilot project aimed at increasing access to oral health services for Maine’s underserved children.

In implementing the pilot project, the MDA recently hired a dental care coordinator to work collaboratively with the Office of MaineCare Services to identify MaineCare eligible children in need of oral health services, and establish these children as patients in dental practices and clinics across the state.

“We know that prevention is the key to ending dental disease.  We know, too, that good habits – brushing, flossing, a healthy diet and visiting a dentist – must begin at an early age.  Our goal is to help parents and caregivers access the dental care that is available to their children,” said MDA president, Demi Kouzounas, in a press release.

Modeled after the American Dental Association’s Community Dental Health Coordinator and the City of Portland’s Oral Health Program, the dental care coordinator will serve as a liaison between children eligible for MaineCare as well as those who are uninsured, their families and the dental community.

In Portland, MaineCare eligible children are referred to local dentists and clinics; children in need who do not have insurance or the means to pay for care are referred to the Bright Smiles Clinic.

“We know the model works,” said Dr. Kouzounas who founded the Bright Smiles Clinic.  “No longer are free dental clinic days in the greater Portland area overwhelmed with children in desperate need of care – they are now referred to the appropriate setting at the appropriate time.”

According to MDA Executive Director Cindy Sullivan, dentists spearheading the initiative will ensure placement of children in dental homes and help to facilitate referrals to pediatric dentists and other specialists for children with the most critical needs.

“The Department supports programs seeking to improve access to oral health care and increase awareness of oral health as an important component of overall health.  Education, outreach and follow-up are critical to reducing the numbers of children in our State who are not receiving dental care, and we’re delighted to be part of this pilot,” said Stephanie Nadeau, Director, Office of MaineCare Services.

A similar collaborative arrangement is underway with Head Start programs throughout Maine.  Because of the efforts of MDA staff, volunteer dentists and Head Start personnel, more than 200 children enrolled in Head Start now have a dentist they can see for ongoing care.

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