MAY: Oral Health

Tooth decay is a common but often preventable problem. Yet, as Children Now reports, untreated tooth decay is progressive and can undermine children’s long-term health, educational achievements, self image, and overall success. In addition, oral health during pregnancy can have longterm effects on children.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children visit a dentist every six months once their first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday. Children’s oral health is easily maintained with routine preventive care. Yet 50% of California infants (2 year-olds and younger) have never seen a dentist, per a CDPH 2017 report. Among Medi-Cal members, less than half of children and only about 20 percent of adults use the dental services Medi-Cal offers.

Good news: WIC Can Help promote oral health for families by referring them to low-cost or free services. Although not an official survey representing all California WIC agencies, a 2014 CHDP Survey of WIC Dental Services indicates the extent of oral health services offered in some agencies and the potential for further partnerships to serve more WIC families.

Smile, California is a campaign (launched October 2018) to educate eligible members about free and low-cost services available through Medi-Cal and make it easier for members to access care. Learn more from WIC’s Critical Role in the Oral Health Plan, an April 2017 presentation from the CDPH Perinatal and Infant Oral Health Quality Improvement Project with updates on oral health status and resources for intervention.

What Local Agencies Can Do:

  1. Educate WIC families about dental care for young children. These websites are particularly good:
    Mouth Monsters (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry)
    2Min2X (Children’s Oral Health Campaign)
  2. Inform families about Smile, California to help them access dental services provided under the Medi-Cal program, and encourage all family members enrolled in Medi-Cal to see a dentist every year.
    To find out if a child can enroll in Medi-Cal (including dental services), contact your local social service agency.
    Visit or Denti-Cal to find a Medi-Cal Dentist by County or City.
    If you cannot find a dentist in your area who is accepting new patients,
    call Denti-Cal (M – F, 8 AM – 5 PM):
    Phone: (800) 322-6384
    TTY: (800) 735-2922
  3. Urge all pregnant and breastfeeding women to practice good oral health habits and visit the dentist, too.
    The Oral Health Care During Pregnancy: National Consensus Statement provides tips for good oral health during pregnancy, which you can share with pregnant women. You can also use these patient education materials from the California Dental Assocation Foundation, and refer to Oral Health During Pregnancy and Early Childhood: Evidence-based Guidelines for Health Professionals.
  4. Consider offering oral health services at your clinics:
    Consult the WIC: Early Entry into Dental Care Guidebook
    Conduct online CHDP Fluoride Varnish Training with staff