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Many Medicaid-enrolled children with preventable dental conditions getting surgical treatment

August 26, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Image of September 2016 JADA cover
Many children have preventable dental conditions — particularly early childhood caries — that are not adequately treated until they need surgical care in hospital operating rooms or ambulatory surgery centers, according to research published in the September 2016 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

About $450 million in Medicaid expenditures occurred in 2011 in the U.S. because of surgical care provided in operating rooms or ambulatory surgical centers for potentially preventable pediatric dental conditions, according to The Journal’s cover story, “Potentially Preventable Dental Care in Operating Rooms for Children Enrolled in Medicaid.”

“Continuing to promote broader access to dental education and care to prevent, identify and treat early childhood caries can reduce the social and economic costs of preventable dental conditions,” said Brian Bruen, corresponding author of the study, who is a researcher and a Ph.D. candidate at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Authors of the research examined Medicaid data from eight states to find cases in which kids aged 1 to 20 years received surgical care in operating rooms or ambulatory surgery centers in 2010 and 2011 for potentially preventable diagnoses, as defined with diagnostic codes.

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The September issue of JADA also includes a column from Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute about why payment rates to dentists are declining in most states; a systematic review and meta-analysis looking the effect of regenerative periodontal therapy in preventing periodontal defects after the extraction of third molars; and a case study that examines an incident of a broken dental anesthetic needle transecting the right internal carotid artery.

Each month, JADA articles are published online at in advance of print publication. The entire September issue is online now. In addition to print and online, readers can also access, read, share and search JADA from their phone or tablets. The JADA app is available for all iOS and Android devices through the App Store and Google Play.