Imagine being a child and moving three times in one year, by yourself, to live with different families. Would you feel scared, anxious or angry?

Florida Foster Kids Are Facing A Lack Of Oral Health Care

Imagine being a child and moving three times in one year, by yourself, to live with different families. Would you feel scared, anxious or angry?
Guest Column By: Roosevelt Allen, DDS, MAGD, ABGD (Photo Source: File)

Imagine being a child and moving three times in one year, by yourself, to live with different families. Would you feel scared, anxious or angry?

Would you have access to the proper health care you needed?

For most of us, we can’t identify with what this would be like or how it would affect us. But for one-third of foster kids in the United States, changing living situations at least this frequently is a stark reality.

Currently, there’s a real demand for children in the foster care system — who are considered to have special oral and overall health care needs — to get necessary preventive care. One recent study found that youth with a foster care history reported having more oral health problems and less access to care, compared to their peers despite being insured by Medicaid. When left untreated, harmful bacteria from certain oral diseases — like advanced gum disease — can impact other areas of the body and weaken its immune response.

In Florida, especially, there seems to be a gap in care for all kids. A Carequest Institute report released earlier this year cited the state as having the highest rate of emergency department (ED) visits for children aged 14 years and younger with oral health issues that were better suited for treatment in a dental setting. Some of the top diagnoses included infections around tooth root, cavities and advanced gum disease — all costly issues that could be avoided with a regular oral hygiene routine and preventive dental cleanings.

So why aren’t foster kids — and all kids — in Florida getting the oral and overall health care they need? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Typically, lots of social and economic factors come into play, such as unstable home lives, poverty, language, food access, transportation, cost of care, dentist shortages in rural areas and lack of oral health education. Research is beginning to show how these social determinants of health can impact a person’s ability to get essential medical and dental care.

As we gain a better understanding of how social and economic disparities affect our health and well-being as a community, we all must come together to address them for foster kids. At United Concordia Dental, we are committed to doing our part to increase their oral health education and access to quality dental care and support services.

This month, we are partnering with the Rays Baseball Foundation to hold an educational event for foster kids ages 5-17 at its Big Game James Club, a donated suite United Concordia has sponsored since 2017, that aims to offer a sense of stability and belonging to foster children. The event will be held in conjunction with a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game and include a fun teeth brushing demonstration, as well as simple oral health tips tailored for the age group. Integrating consistent preventive oral hygiene habits early on will better serve their overall health later in life.

The more than 390,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States face so many challenges in life — grief and loss from being separated from their biological families, fear and anxiety over new home life situations, and trust issues. I am proud that my company supports the important work of organizations like the Rays Baseball Foundation, as well as enables me to lead oral health education outreach offering these kids the opportunity to be their best selves.

As a dental insurer, we know that the health of the mouth is tied to the health of the body. And this is just one small step in helping address oral health inequities foster kids face. I encourage you to join us by getting involved in organizations that are tackling these disparities in your own communities. By working together, we can increase access to quality oral health care and help these kids have healthy smiles — and bodies — for years to come.


Roosevelt Allen, DDS, MAGD, ABGD, is chief dental officer at United Concordia Dental, a national dental solutions partner. He leads United Concordia’s oral and overall health efforts, overseeing professional affairs, dental directors, and clinical and dental policy.

Android Users, Click To Download The Free Press App And Never Miss A Story. Follow Us On Facebook and Twitter. Signup for our free newsletter. 

We can’t do this without your help; visit our GiveSendGo page and donate any dollar amount; every penny helps

Login To Facebook To Comment
Share This: