Making Milwaukee Smile
The dental disease burden among children in the City of Milwaukee cannot be ignored. In fact, Tooth decay (dental caries) is the single most common chronic disease of childhood, occurring five times more frequent than asthma and seven times more often than hay fever. Nationwide, 29.5 percent of third grade children have untreated dental decay as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School-based oral health programs conducted in the City of Milwaukee during 2005-06 report untreated decay to be as high as 54 percent.
Estimates show that 68 percent of the 162,156 children under age 18 in the City of Milwaukee are Medicaid eligible, but only approximately 18 percent received a dental exam in 2006. As oral health needs increase, the number of dental Medicaid providers is decreasing due to low Medicaid reimbursement and a fragmented system of care. Dental disease is preventable with early preventive measures, sustainable home care and appropriate periodic professional services. Healthy Teeth=Healthy Kids, a plan to improve the oral health of children in Milwaukee, serves as a detailed blueprint to address the complex oral health barriers that currently exist.
Dr. Willis provides academic guidance to this initiative funded by the MCW - Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program awarded to the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin a subsidiary of Children’s Hospital and Health System and Columbia St. Mary's Smart Smiles Program. The ultimate purpose of this plan is to help drive local and state action to improve the oral health care of children in the City of Milwaukee. Making Milwaukee Smile is showing promising results that comprehensive school-based oral health programming is identifying early oral health needs of children and decreasing the need for urgent care.