Tooth decay remains the leading, chronic disease among American children. It is painful, leads to difficulty eating and speaking, and results in more than 50 million hours of lost school time each year. Studies show that children who do not have access to regular dental care instead use costly emergency room services more often.

Still, going to the dentist isn’t a luxury every American family can afford. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that more than 55 percent of children on Medicaid did not go to the dentist in 2014. A recent Health Affairs study shows that even though Medicaid expansion has resulted in increased dental coverage, it has had no impact on decreasing emergency room visits for dental care because there are simply not enough dentists willing to accept Medicaid. These results suggest access to care, rather than coverage alone, is what makes the difference.

That’s why Kool Smiles dentists are committed to expanding access to quality dentistry and oral healthcare services in underserved communities nationwide. We accept insurance plans that many other dentists reject, we accept Medicaid patients and we often provide services to those with no safety net.

And our impact is felt. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of our patients are Medicaid or CHIP enrollees. When Kool Smiles has been in a community for four years, our patients’ average number of dental procedures decline by 28 percent—a clear indication of improved oral health.