By: Linda Poynter, Oral Health Program Manager
Poor oral health has long been a public health challenge in Kentucky, and in the district that NKY Health serves. While most children are able to obtain needed dental services through Medicaid, KCHIP, private dental insurance and school based dental programs, many of our adult population do not have access to these resources. Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act provided some adults with coverage for a fee, but for many it was cost prohibitive. The Medicaid Waiver, which was to take place July 1, 2018, was developed to allow Medicaid recipients the opportunity to earn dental and vision benefits through work requirements and completing activities such as taking classes or searching for a job. However on June 30, the Kentucky governor’s administration cancelled dental and vision benefits. For Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties, an extra 27,000 adults lost dental coverage.
In order to address this ongoing health issue, the fiscal courts of Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties are providing funding for NKY Health to administer an Adult Dental Assistance program. This new program will be housed in the population health division and supervised by the Oral Health Manager. Eligible residents of the three counties will be able to receive emergency, restorative, and preventive dental care that they may normally be unable to obtain. Eligibility will be based on income and residency requirements and other dental coverage available. Contracting with dentists to provide dental treatment based on a specific scope of services and fee schedule, is vital to the success of the program. Not only will the dentists be reimbursed fairly to see residents of their community and contribute to the public’s health, but the goal is for the clients to become a part of their practice and establish a dental home.
The Adult Dental Assistance Project Leader, a contract position with NKY Health, will develop program specifics, screen applicants, coordinate care with local dental providers, and perform program outreach and education. A collaboration of community partners is needed to address poor oral health in Northern Kentucky. The program staff will interact with and educate dentists, community safety nets, community centers, St. Elizabeth emergency departments, fiscal courts, our health centers, and all senior residents in order to promote the program and the need for good oral health.
Cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, respiratory problems and diabetes are only some of the health issues that are affected by diseases and inflammation in the mouth. In general, people with lower levels of education and income, and people from specific racial/ethnic groups, have higher rates of oral disease. Unstable dental health physically and psychologically influences how they grow, enjoy life, look, speak, chew, taste food and socialize, as well as their feelings of social well-being. This program will contribute to resolving long standing and emergent dental problems for community members, and will allow a person to be healthy, free of pain, and self confident in their ability to get and hold a job.