SignUpNow Outreach
Communities Connecting Kids with Health Coverage 
Dental Edition 2011

This special Dental Edition of the SignUpNow Outreach Newsletter contains helpful information for you, and the families you serve, about the dental benefits available through the FAMIS programs, and the importance of good oral health for children and pregnant women. SignUpNow (SUN) is an initiative of the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) that is focused on increasing enrollment of eligible uninsured children in Virginia's FAMIS programs. 

In This Issue
Oral Health Status of Children: The Facts
Help FAMIS Recipients Understand and Utilize Dental Benefits
Smiles For Children
Children's Dental Health Month
The Virginia Oral Health Coalition
Did You Know?
Children's Oral Health Resources
Oral Health Status of Children: The Facts


Studies show that children who get routine dental care miss fewer days of school and perform better academically. Children who start seeing a dentist early are also likely to continue seeing a dentist as they get older. Good habits take hold when started early. 


According to the Pew Center on the States, the problems affecting children's dental health are severe all across the country:

  • Dental care is the single greatest unmet need for health services among children;
  • 17 million disadvantaged children do not receive the care they need every year;
  • Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease, affecting nearly 60 percent of children;
  • Eighty percent of dental disease in children is concentrated in 25 percent of kids; and
  • Children from poor families face disproportionately high barriers to getting care. The consequences can be devastating to those from low-income and minority households. 
Help FAMIS Recipients Understand and
Utilize Dental Benefits

While Virginia has made great strides in making dental benefits for enrollees in the FAMIS programs easier to use and more comprehensive, a large portion of FAMIS enrollees never use their dental benefits. In fact, in Virginia during state Fiscal Year 2010, there were 584,678 children aged 3-20 enrolled in the FAMIS programs. Sadly, 45% of them did not see a dentist at all during the year. 


There are a number of ways that you can help promote the dental benefits that are available to enrollees of the FAMIS programs, including:

  • educating yourself about the Smiles for Children Program and informing colleagues and clients about it;
  • using Children's Dental Health Month as a way to promote the dental benefits of the FAMIS programs AND to encourage more parents to enroll their children;
  • and learning about, and getting involved in, the Virginia Oral Health Coalition.
Smiles For Children


Smiles For Children is the name of Virginia's special program that provides comprehensive oral health services for children under 21, who are enrolled in the FAMIS programs. These dental benefits include braces, preventive care (check-ups and cleanings) and restoration services (crowns and fillings). This benefit is free for enrollees, and dental services are available from nearly 1,500 dentists and specialists around the state.


Families who need help locating a dentist can call Smiles For Children at (888) 912-3456 for assistance. For more information about Smiles For Children, click here to see a copy of the Member Handbook.

February is Children's Dental Health Month

Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM) to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. Over the years, NCDHM messages and materials have reached millions of people in communities across the country.


Whether you're an outreach worker, a member of a dental team, a teacher or a parent, the ADA has free online resources that can help you with oral health presentations, ideas for the classroom and coloring and activity sheets that can be used as handouts. 


Outreach workers across the nation have been known to use Children's Dental Health Month, and the available materials, as a way to not only promote good oral health, but also to recruit parents who may have children that are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP (the FAMIS programs in Virginia). Many parents do not know that dental services are provided by the FAMIS programs and this can be a particularly attractive benefit. 


Examples of how Outreach Workers have used Children's Dental Health Month as a recruitment or educational tool include:


Writing a Letter to the Editor about Children's Dental Health Month and letting the public know that dental benefits are a part of the FAMIS programs. This may also be a good opportunity to thank public officials, organizations or individuals who have supported FAMIS, the expansion of FAMIS or have been strong advocates or referral sources;


Partnering with local dentists or the health department and writing an article for the local paper, or getting on a local cable access or radio program, to promote Children's Dental Health Month and the dental benefits of the FAMIS programs;


Planning an event in honor of Children's Dental Health Month.  For example, you could invite the parents of the children you have helped apply for FAMIS to an educational session on FAMIS dental benefits. You could also have a dentist (that accepts FAMIS and FAMIS Plus) talk about the importance of basic oral health care. Work with dentists and see if they would be willing to donate marketing materials that are dental-related, including toothbrushes, tooth-shaped stress relievers, etc.


Plan a mini-dental health fair. Invite dentists (or their representatives) who accept FAMIS and FAMIS Plus to set up tables. Invite parents who you've helped with FAMIS applications, as well as the public, to come and meet the dentists, get oral health questions answered, make appointments, etc.


Partner with the schools to educate parents about Children's Dental Health Month. Take the opportunity to also let parents know about the FAMIS programs, what dental services are offered and, of course, how they can get in touch with you.


If you can't find time to undertake these activities by February, simply plan them for another month.

The Virginia Oral Health Coalition


There is a new organization in Virginia focused on improving oral health.  The Virginia Oral Health Coalition (VOHC) is a statewide advocacy organization created to bring excellent oral health to all Virginians through policy change, public awareness and innovative new programs. In November 2010, the DentaQuest Foundation made a major investment in Virginia's oral health by supporting the work of the Virginia Oral Health Coalition with a grant of $152,670. This support is providing VOHC with the resources necessary to continue to advance solutions that promote oral health as a critical component of overall health.


The link between oral health and overall health is well documented. In addition to pain and trouble eating, dental caries (cavities) and infections of the mouth can lead to diabetes, preterm births, and heart disease, not to mention lost hours from school and work. Unfortunately tremendous barriers exist in Virginia for many adults and children who need dental care. Only 74 of Virginia's 135 localities have a community-based dental safety net clinic and 48% of Virginia localities are designated as Dental Provider Shortage Areas. This coupled with the lack of reimbursement for all but emergency dental services for adults eligible for Medicaid makes the work of the VOHC essential.


VOHC works to remove these barriers by advocating for public policy changes, such as the inclusion of oral health coverage for pregnant women receiving Medicaid, and increasing public awareness of the importance of oral health through oral health literacy campaigns, the Virginia Dental Home Initiative and other innovative programs. The work of VOHC is guided by the state oral health plan, which was created in 2010 by stakeholders from throughout the Commonwealth.


VOHC's membership is diverse and growing. It includes organizations representing groups in need of oral health access, dental safety net clinics, private practice dentists and individuals who care about improving oral health in Virginia. Members participate in workgroups that focus on public awareness, advocacy, workforce and data issues, and are invited to participate in educational webinars and trainings to hear from experts in oral health at VOHC quarterly meetings.


To join the Virginia Oral Health Coalition or learn more about its priorities and programs, please visit or contact Sarah Bedard Holland, VOHC's executive director at (804)288-5750 or by email at [email protected].
Did You Know?

Many private and/or employer-sponsored health insurance plans do not offer dental benefits.  If children are FAMIS Plus eligible and have private insurance, they can still apply for FAMIS Plus as a secondary insurance provider that can supply dental benefits.


These benefits include both preventive care and care for problems (cavities, etc.). Braces may even be covered if they are determined to be medically necessary.

Children's Oral Health Resources


Here are a number of resources about oral health for you and the families with whom you are working:


Virginia Health Care Foundation

DentaQuest - Smiles For Children Member Documents


  • Member Brochures (Smiles For Children Handbooks in English and Spanish)
  • Oral Health Matters (all available in English and Spanish)
    • Smiles For Children Brushing Tips
    • Smiles For Children Snack Facts
    • Smiles For Children Safe Pacifier Tips 
    • Smiles For Children Dental Dos 
    • Smiles For Children Pregnant Women 

FAMIS Web Site - "Staying Healthy" Section


  • Questions and Answers on Dental Care
  • Going to the Dentist
  • Information and Activities
  • More Dental Care Tips
  • Dental Programs

National Children's Oral Health Foundation Parents Page

  • Get a Personalized Letter from the Tooth Fairy
  • Oral Health Blogs
  • Fun Activities for Children and Parents (Oral Health Tips, coloring pages, etc.)

American Dental Association Kids Page


  • Oral Health Animations (Animation about primary and permanent teeth, brushing, flossing, etc.)
  • Visit the Dentist with Marty (Listen or read along as Marty takes a trip to the dentist with his mom.)
  • To Tell the Tooth (An animated game show)
  • Make Smiles Healthy (Information about being a dentist for students in grades 2-6)
  • Dental Word Search (Second to sixth grade)

Children's Dental Health Project


  • Oral Health Opportunities in School-Based Health Centers
  • Increasing Access to Dental Care through Public Private Partnerships: Contracting Between Private Dentists and Federally Qualified Health Centers - an FQHC Handbook
  • Oral Health Provisions in Health Care Reform and CHIPRA
If you have colleagues who would benefit from receiving SignUpNow Outreach, please forward this email to them and encourage them to subscribe to our mailing list. We look forward to providing additional information on children's health insurance in the near future.

Polly Raible 
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