Future of Children’s Health Coverage Series Brief #2: Rethinking Pediatric Dental Coverage

By Colin Reusch, Children’s Dental Health Project and Joan Alker, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families

Last month, a U.S. Senator called children’s dental health “a huge issue people simply don’t think about very often.” Here at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and the Children’s Dental Health Project, we think it is time to change that. Failure to identify, treat and prevent dental disease can result in extremely serious health problems for children and lead to long-term consequences by impairing children’s ability to eat, sleep and to perform up to their potential in school.

That is why today we are releasing an issue brief, explaining 12 options federal and state policymakers should consider to strengthen pediatric dental coverage and ensure that more young children receive oral health risk assessments.  The brief, entitled Fulfilling the Promise of Children’s Dental Coverage, is the second in the Georgetown University CCF series focused on the future of children’s health coverage.

Fortunately, the IRS has already taken an important step toward embracing one of the brief’s 12 policy options by issuing a proposed rule this summer that would change the way the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits are calculated. This would enable all families to receive the full tax credits to which they should be entitled for dental coverage.

Tooth decay is the most chronic condition among children and teens, and it is largely preventable if addressed early in life. Sadly, children from low-income and minority families are disproportionately affected by tooth decay. Adopting these twelve policy options would help to address these inequities and create brighter smiles and futures for our nation’s children.

To learn more, please read the following policy options and the full report.


Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy.