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Task Force Formed to Explore Holes in Dental Care

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RALEIGH — Nearly half of all kindergartners in North Carolina have rotting teeth and other dental diseases that are preventable with the proper care. Unfortunately, that care costs, and many children are paying the price.

Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker is working with other state leaders to form a new task force to solve the problem.

The Raleigh Dental Clinic is one of the few places in Wake County that actively recruits kids covered byMedicaid.Wicker chose the spot to announce the statewide task force. The task force will address the problems children and adults on Medicaid face when they seek dental care.

Fourteen-year-old Antoine is one of the luckier kids in North Carolina; he's found a dentist to clean his teeth. That service is denied to many adults and kids on Medicaid because most dentists won't schedule appointments with them.

"The result is we have children right now sitting in classrooms today in pain, because of a whole variety of dental problems," Wicker says. "That's not right."

The problem is particularly challenging in 55 of North Carolina's 100 counties, where there is only one dentist for every 4,000 residents.

The task force will consist of dentists and other health care workers from across the state. Their first assignment is to find out why dentists are denying Medicaid patients care.

The 20-member group will then offer solutions to the state legislature. Their goal is to have a bill in place before theGeneral Assemblyadjourns this summer.

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Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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