HAGERSTOWN, MD — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today attended the kickoff of “Healthy Smiles in Motion,” Walnut Street Community Health Center’s new mobile dental program. The 39-foot, fully equipped mobile dental unit will provide services to Washington County Public Schools and Head Start sites. The event coincides with the 2012 National Children’s Dental Health Month.
“Good oral health is essential to overall health, but quality oral care is out of reach for too many children in Maryland and around the nation,” said Senator Cardin. “I’m proud that the Healthy Smiles in Motion program is breaking down barriers to oral care for low-income families in Western Maryland. Together, we will continue working to make sure that all children have access to the oral care they need to grow up healthy.”
“All children deserve access to comprehensive dental care and to be free of dental pain and decay. Healthy Smiles in Motion is another way the Walnut Street Dental Practice will expand care to children in Washington County,” said Dr. Ilaya Rajagopal, Dental Director of the Walnut Street Dental Practice and a pediatric dentist.
Walnut Street Community Health Center established Healthy Smiles in Motion with funding received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus funding enabled the Center to purchase a mobile dental unit with two fully operational treatment rooms. In November and December, the program provided dental screenings for more than 400 Washington County children enrolled in the Head Start program. By the end of February, the dental unit will start to provide care on site at Washington County Public Schools.
Dental care is the single greatest unmet need for health care among children, and Washington County is representative of this nationwide health disparity. In Washington County, of the 7,595 children enrolled with a Medicaid Managed Care Organization, 3,200 or 42.2 percent did not receive a dental visit. These statistics do not even incorporate uninsured children.
In the Senate, Senator Cardin has worked to expand children’s access to oral health care and to reduce health disparities in Maryland and nationwide. The 2009 reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) included his provision creating a guaranteed dental benefit.