SignUpNow Outreach
Communities Connecting Kids with Health Coverage 
Winter 2013

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. Please share this newsletter with colleagues and encourage them to register to receive SignUpNow Outreach themselves.

In This Issue
Why is Oral Health So Important?
Smiles For Children
Help FAMIS/FAMIS Plus Recipients Understand and Utilize Dental Benefits
Did You Know?

Why is Oral Health So Important?

 Adapted from "Moving on the Oral Health Provisions in Health Reform: A Roadmap for Implementation," produced by the Children's Dental Health Project


Among children, tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease in America, five times more common than asthma. Tooth decay is initiated in the toddler and preschool years when the causative bacteria are transmitted, most commonly from mother to child. Cavities have lifelong effects on oral health and function, and later in life - on employability. The CDC reports that of children entering kindergarten, nearly half have experienced cavities. By high school graduation, more than two-thirds have experienced tooth decay. Even worse, three quarters of young children (73%) and half of 6-11 year olds (48%) have untreated cavities.


Children with dental symptoms are often brought to the hospital emergency department (ED) for pain relief, even though few EDs offer [regular] dental services. [According to state-level data], approximately 175,000 children under age 18 present to the ED each year for acute dental problems. Use of the ED for these preventable conditions has increased substantially in recent years. These children have high levels of interference with school (32%), sleeping (50%) and eating (82%). Additionally, tens of thousands of pre-school-aged children and children with disabilities are admitted to the hospital or surgical center for dental repair each year at a cost of millions of dollars. Such treatment is costly in human and economic terms,yet is essentially preventable at low cost through early intervention.


Smiles For Children

Smiles For Children is the name of Virginia's program that provides comprehensive oral health services for children under 21, who are enrolled in the FAMIS programs. Smiles For Children is administered by DentaQuest.  The dental benefits it provides 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 over 1700 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, and to see a copy of the Member Handbook, click here.



Help FAMIS/FAMIS Plus Recipients Understand and Utilize Dental Benefits

While Virginia has made great strides in making dental benefits for enrollees in the FAMIS and FAMIS Plus programs (the FAMIS programs) easier to use and more comprehensive, a large portion of enrollees never use their dental benefits! In fact, in Virginia during state Fiscal Year 2012, there were 600,153 children aged 3-20 enrolled in the FAMIS programs. Sadly, 39% 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;
  • Informing colleagues and clients about Smile For Children; and
  • 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 in the FAMIS programs.


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 for children of all ages. 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 classrooms 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 who are eligible for the FAMIS programs. 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 to write an article for the local paper, or speak 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 to highlight 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 (who 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, floss, 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.


Did You Know?

Many private and/or employer-sponsored health insurance plans do not offer dental benefits. If children have private insurance without dental benefits and they are otherwise eligible for FAMIS Plus, they can 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 deemed to be medically necessary.


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


Virginia Health Care Foundation

  • Community Dental Care Providers for adults with no dental insurance


Family Access to Medical Insurance Security

  • Smiles For Children Member Handbook


Delta Dental


  • Oral Health e-Magazine, Grin!
  • Oral Health Library
  • Oral Health Blog



  • Oral Health Library


Virginia Oral Health Coalition

  • Advocacy and education efforts in Virginia


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

  • Improving the Oral Health of Pregnant Women and Young Children
  • Pediatric Dental Benefits Under the Affordable Care Act
  • How to Protect Your Baby's Teeth from Cavities
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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