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Ohio outscored 35 other states in the Pew Center on the States' review of policies that improve children's access to a dentist. The state won special attention for its efforts to provide dental sealants, which prevent cavities.
Xenia and Fairborn kids can have fewer dental problems with Preventive Dentistry.
All states have room for improvement, according to the report, which highlights the importance of preventive care to drive down the incidence and cost of more expensive treatments later.
The report estimates that 17million children, or one in five, go without the dental care they need every year.
"Unlike many dilemmas in health care ... this one is one that can be fixed," said Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign.
Ohio received kudos for meeting five of eight benchmarks set by the group. The six states that met six or more earned A's.
One of the benchmarks Ohio did not meet - and the one many dentists see as the main obstacle to better access to care for poor children - involves the money they are paid for caring for Medicaid-eligible children.
On average, dentists in the United States are paid about 61 percent of their median retail fees for treating young Medicaid patients. In Ohio, they are paid 48 percent.
"If we're going to get Ohio to where it needs to be with regard to oral health, it is going to be by fixing the Medicaid program," said David Owsiany, executive director of the Ohio Dental Association.
Ohio didn't meet the Pew benchmarks in two other areas. One looked at whether dental hygienists could see children in the dental-sealant program without a prior exam by a dentist; the other looked at whether the state has added new categories of primary dental providers.
The dental association is in favor of pending legislation that would allow hygienists to perform preventive services with less supervision by dentists.
The Ohio Department of Health deserves much of the credit for efforts including the sealant program, and the state is doing well given the size of its population, he said.
Almost 40 percent of preschool kids have tooth decay. Greene County Ohio kids need early visits to the dentist.