The number of children receiving dental care through the state's TennCare program is on the rise.
The care provided for Medicaid-eligible children has increased by 3 percent since the new company managing the care, DentaQuest, won the contract.
According to federal figures, more than 925,000 children are now covered through TennCare or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
TennCare spokeswoman Sarah Tanksley says the success is largely coming from community outreach efforts.
"They have done some community events, just really working with our members and establishing that relationship," she explains, "creating dental homes where our members are assigned to a primary dental provider and encouraging them, that they establish that relationship."
When DentaQuest took over as the dental benefits manager for the state, some dentists warned its approach could reduce access for children.
But in addition to increasing the number of children enrolled, DentaQuest has saved the state $53 million so far.
Oral health is linked to other health issues, including diabetes and heart disease.
Tanksley says research also indicates that children who receive dental care early in life will seek it out later as adults.
"If we work with our members and establish those routines early in life, we feel and we hope that those practices will continue throughout childhood and into adulthood," she explains. "And that those practices will transition not only from your dental health, but also to your overall health."
As outlined in its contract with the state, DentaQuest stands to lose or gain $8 million dollars, based on its performance.
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