An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Technical Difficulties- Learn more here.
Regional News

Washington's ABCD Child Dental Program Celebrates 20 Years Of Care

ABCD program

A Washington oral health program for children is celebrating 20 years in business. The Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program, or ABCD, began in Spokane in 1995. 

At that time, Spokane health authorities say only one-in-five children received dental checkups. Many families couldn’t afford visits to the dentist. Spokane dentists, physicians and the local health district worried about the effect that was having on the overall health of children.

“Dental caries [cavities] were a silent epidemic in America and it was the most common disease of childhood, much more common than asthma and hay fever and any of those things that you usually see a lot of kids suffering from," said Spokane area pediatric dentist Jared Evans.

Spokane’s health district and partners created the ABCD program for families who qualified for Medicaid. Dentists are trained to treat children and coordinators such as Heather Gallagher help families get to the dentist.

“It was so successful that the Health Care Authority and Arcora Foundation stepped in and gave little mini-grants to start it in other counties,” said Gallagher, who coordinates the program in Spokane and Lincoln counties.

“Once a year, each family gets in-depth education on what to expect as their child grows older. Things on nutrition and how it affects your teeth. How oral health affects your overall health. They get fluoride varnishes and, through ABCD, their pediatrician can also give them fluoride varnishes," she said.

In the 20 years since ABCD began operations, Gallagher says the number of children in Washington’s Apple Health program who go to the dentist has increased from 20% to almost 55%. And the number of children who experience health problems due to dental issues has significantly decreased.

Doug talks with Dr. Jared Evans about the ABCD program and caring for children’s teeth on today’s [Thursday's] Inland Journal podcast, available at the SPR website, at Apple Podcasts, NPR One and Google Play.