August 17, 2022


Health for a better future

medicaid low-income families Delta Dental Mobile United Way

A big challenge facing low-income families is finding affordable dental care.

Children from families whose incomes are below 200% of the federal poverty level are more likely to suffer from dental problems, and it’s an issue that System of Care is working to address.

System of Care is newly formed team of local organizations and government entities.

Under the care of pediatric dentist Thane Crump from Lake Area Pediatric, the Watertown Area United Way and a Delta Dental program, many local kids are having their oral hygiene needs met.

“Every dentist in Watertown is a Medicaid provider. What does that mean, exactly? That means that they made a contract with the state of South Dakota that they will accept those patients. Just because they call themselves a Medicaid provider doesn’t mean they actually see Medicaid patients,” Crump said.

Thane Crump

That is a painful reality when Medicaid covers 50% of South Dakota children, according to the state Department of Social Services. And it’s a difficult thing for Crump, who provides pediatric dental care for very young children.

“I see a lot of 3 and 4-year-olds. I’m not very good at treating older kids because they have adult teeth,” he said. “The amount of the decay around the state, around Watertown — the statistics say that 20% of kids get 80% of the cavities. I would say that rate around Watertown is probably higher due to the low socioeconomic status, less income and the inability to find providers.”

Most dental problems are 99% preventable.

The good news is young people in the Watertown area have options with Crump and the Delta Dental Mobile program.

The Delta Dental Mobile Program provides dental care for youth from infancy to 21 at no cost. The traveling bus offers a full range of dental care, including exams, cleanings, preventative treatments and cavity fillings. Insurance is not required.

During the last visit to Watertown in June, the bus provided more than $70,000 worth of dental care to 90 young people.

It will next visit Watertown Sept. 20-23. To schedule an appointment, call the Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership at 605-886-7674.

Delta Dental bus will revisit Watertown in September.

Crump said that children need routine care early and should not wait until they are school-aged to begin regular dental checkups and cleanings. He also said that caregivers should be aware that children might not always express how painful their condition is when they have dental problems.

“It’s tough to see these kids go through this. I see kids suffering every day. These kids are in pain. I just saw a kid and out of 10 teeth, I had to take out eight of them because they were abscessed. It’s frustrating to me because most of what we do is 99% preventable,” he said.