LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein announced that effective Dec. 1 the Louisiana Medicaid Program began reimbursing physicians for applying fluoride varnish twice each year to the teeth of Medicaid recipients between 6 months and 5 years of age. Previously, Medicaid only covered this service when performed by a dental provider.                                       

Secretary Greenstein said, "Our top priority is to promote and protect the health of Louisiana's children. Good oral health is critical to leading a healthy, active life so we must make it a priority. Fluoride varnish is a simple and painless step parents can take to improve the quality of their children's lives. It cannot wait until the first time children, particularly those who fall into high-risk categories, see a dentist because at that point it may be too late."   

Fluoride varnish is a gel coating proven to assist in preventing and potentially reversing in at-risk children. The American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend fluoride varnish application at least twice per year for children at moderate or high risk of developing cavities. To determine if a recipient is at moderate or high risk, providers reference the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Caries-Risk Assessment Tool.

Dr. Jay Collinsworth, president of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, "On behalf of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, we welcome the opportunity to provide this cost-effective oral health service to our patients, the children of Louisiana. Pediatricians throughout Louisiana will now be able to utilize the provision of this service to educate parents about the importance of oral health at a very early age. This service will begin the process of helping all children establish a dental home. The LA AAP appreciates the efforts of Secretary Greenstein, his staff and our Louisiana Dental Association colleagues in making this program a reality for the children of our State."

With the implementation of the updated fluoridation varnish policy, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses will now be reimbursed for applying fluoride varnish.

State Sen. Sherri Smith Cheek, a legislative champion for this preventive measure, said, "Oral health has a significant impact on overall health, so it's important that we start protecting children's teeth as early as possible. I am proud to partner with the Department to ensure Louisiana physicians have the tools necessary to preserve the health of our state's most at-risk children."   

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child's first dental visit occur as soon as the first tooth erupts, which is usually between 6 and 12 months of age. Allowing additional provider types to administer fluoride will improve the overall health of children who otherwise may have not received an oral exam through a dental provider, while potentially decreasing future cost of untreated dental diseases in this population.

Steven Bienvenu, MD, LSU School of Medicine-Shreveport, played an integral role in the development of the fluoridation policy. He said, "I'm grateful that in these times of difficult fiscal decisions our leaders have had the courage to investigate and invest in policy that helps close a serious gap in the healthcare of our youngest children and potentially saves money in the long term. I'm sure I can speak for all of the physicians and other medical and dental providers throughout Louisiana who care for young children in offering sincere thanks and praise for this very forward-looking program of prevention."

"The LDA is striving to develop a plan that will ensure that quality dental care is available to as many Louisiana children as possible. As a part of that plan, allowing pediatricians' offices to apply fluoride varnish to the children's teeth would help improve the access-to-care in our state. This treatment can help provide an effective barrier to dental decay and will lead to parents having a better understanding of the need for preventive oral health care, including regular trips to the dentist beginning in very early childhood, therefore keeping our children smiling and happy," commented Dr. Bill Hadlock, president of the Louisiana Dental Association.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.