Altarum Institute Gets Federal Funding to Help Doctors Screen Children for Potential Dental Problems

kiddentistThe Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Altarum Institute is using a $9.4 million federal grant to work with primary care doctors on developing an early detection system for more than 1 million Michigan children who are at risk for dental problems.

According to a June 15 Crain’s Detroit Business article, Altarum is working alongside Delta Dental of Michigan, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and the Michigan Department of Community Health as a way to help improve the dental health of children aged 1 to 17 who are enrolled in Medicaid or MIChild. About 1.2 million of Michigan’s 2.3 million children are enrolled in these programs, which are aimed at helping low-income families get access to health and dental care.

Tooth decay, especially at a young age, can lead to several health complications. Missing teeth lost to tooth decay can impact the health of the mouth and other teeth, and studies have shown that tooth decay directly affects heart health. Tooth decay is the most common unaddressed health care need, especially among children whose families might not have the means to afford trips to the dentist, the Crain’s Detroit Business article said.

“While many young children make it to the doctor, considerably fewer make it to see their dentist,” Dan Armijo, vice president and director of information and technology strategies at Altarum, told Crain’s Detroit Business. “We hope to change that and improve the outcome for Michigan’s at-risk children.”

According to Armijo, Altarum’s aim is to create a system that will allow pediatricians and primary care doctors to easily refer patients to dentists.

“This will save tax dollars because there is evidence that receiving preventive dental care significantly reduces cavities, and earlier dental intervention costs far less than ending up in the ER of a hospital,” Armijo said.

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