Washington’s ABCD Dental Program celebrates 20 year anniversary

Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD), an oral health program which connects Medicaid-insured children up to age six with dentists specially trained to treat babies, toddlers and preschoolers, is celebrating its twenty year anniversary. 

Originating in Spokane as a local program to connect underserved children with oral health care, it has since expanded to serve children throughout the state.


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Arcora Foundation, the Foundation of Delta Dental of Washington, is the ABCD statewide managing partner, and has invested more than $7 million to help spread the program across the state over the past twenty years. According to a press release provided by Arcora, “less than one in five eligible children – about 20 percent – saw a dentist in 1999. Today, more than half of Washington’s Apple Health kids from birth to six – 54 percent – are receiving essential preventive oral health care and early dental treatments.” 

Connection to care among eligible children has more than tripled from 52,000 in 1999 to nearly 180,000 in 2018. With increased accessibility came a decreased rate of untreated decay among lower-income preschoolers – now down 35 percent since 2005.

ABCD’s focus on prevention improves the oral and overall health of young children in our state and gives them a better start in life,” said Dr. Lisa Block, the ABCD Champion for Pierce County and Washington State Dental Association ABCD representative. “Getting children into care when they’re very young can lead to better oral health throughout life, saving money for families, businesses and taxpayers.” 

Spokane health providers and lawmakers piloted the system of care that became ABCD after noticing an exceedingly high rate of dental decay in young Medicaid-enrolled children. Combating the issue was the low rate at which these children received care. Spokane is the largest city in the state without fluoridated water to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities.

The program was designed to provide two solutions: family education about the importance of early dental care and training for dentists in the care of very young children. 

The Arcora Foundation (previously known as Washington Dental Service Foundation) took notice in 1999 and began providing three-year startup grants to replicate the Spokane model. The model was then used to develop ABCD programs in other counties around the state. Today, ABCD serves all 39 counties in Washington.

ABCD has made significant progress, but children of color and those from low-income families still have higher rates of untreated decay. The program should be strengthened to reach these underserved communities because oral health is essential to overall health. ABCD can help ensure that every child has a fair start in life,” said Diane Oakes, President and CEO of Arcora Foundation. 

Of their shared vision with Delta Dental of Washington, the Arcora Foundation said, “all people [should] enjoy good oral and overall health, with no one left behind.”