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Stories of children enrolled in Medi-Cal trying to access dental care, and the challenges facing Medi-Cal in providing dental care to children. It examines the State’s efforts to address these problems, and provides an action plan to help the program serve its growing number of enrollees.

Click below to learn how the lack of access to dental care affects California's children and families.

Carolyn_LoughryEthan, age 3
Modoc County

Ethan has serious cavities in his front teeth and needs treatment soon. In fact, the cavities are so bad that he needs oral surgery. Ethan is enrolled in Medi-Cal dental coverage, and the nearest oral surgeon that accepts Ethan’s Medi-Cal is 8 hours away. Getting him to the appointment presents many problems for his parents, Caroyln and Jake Loughry. 

Download the full story here. (PDF)


Meriah_Corsbie_Aug21Anthony, age 9
San Luis Obispo 

In 2008, the family was covered by her husband’s employer-based insurance. “We had a wonderful dentist. I really liked his work, and we took our kids on a regular basis,” said Meriah. “Then my husband had a heart attack, and he hasn’t been able to work since.”  Meriah tried to keep up regular dental visits, but, without insurance, the cost was overwhelming. “Just a simple check-up was $200 to $250 cash.”

Download the full story here. (PDF)


Maggie_Cardenas_Aug21Sunshine, age 6
Siskiyou County

In February 2012, Sunshine Cardenas, 6, received a dental screening through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. “The dental hygienist said that everything looked pretty good, except for a small spot on her back molar,” explained Maggie Cardenas, Sunshine’s mother. “She couldn’t tell if it was a cavity, but she said I needed to get her to the dentist to be checked.”

Download the full story here. (PDF) 


Juan_Carlos_Ubias_finalJuan Carlos, age 19
San Luis Obispo

Most of Juan Carlos’ childhood involved dental pain and discomfort. “I don’t remember when it started,” said Juan Carlos Ubias. “I think it began when I was 8 or 9 years old.” Juan’s parents are agricultural field workers, and for most of his adolescence, the family could not afford or find proper dental treatment. Today, Juan, 19, is wrapping up his senior year at Mesa View Community School in Oceano, CA. For the first time in a decade, Juan is pain free and happy with his smile.  

Download the full story here. (PDF)



Anthony, age 12
San Luis Obispo

In August, 2012, Anthony  was getting ready to head back to school. Anthony is a good student and likes school, but he is not looking forward to class. He has several cavities that have been causing pain for months. Kesha Lewis, Anthony’s mother, called Denti-Cal and was given the name of a dentist and several clinics that accept Medi-Cal. “They’re booked until December and January,” she said. “He can’t wait that long. He’s in pain all the time.” 

Download the full story here.(PDF)



Joseph, age 1
Humboldt County

In February 2011, Tina’s 1-year-old son, Joseph, had a bad fall. She rushed him to the hospital thinking the worst. Thankfully, the physician found him to be fine, except for a broken front tooth. However, Tina was unable to find a pediatric dentist who accepted Medi-Cal. 

Download the full story here. (PDF)


Dawn_Carlton_Aug16Dylan and Grace, age 5
San Luis Obispo

In June 2012, Dawn enrolled Dylan and Grace in Medi-Cal. At that time, Dylan had a cavity. “I was able to find one clinic that could see him at the end of September,” said Dawn. “That’s three months away. He may have a small cavity now, but how much worse will it be in three months?” 

Download the full story here . (PDF)


Erica_Vera_finalLizbeth, age 5
Sacramento County

Lizbeth Vera’s first visit to the dentist did not go smoothly. The 5-year-old saw strange metal instruments lined up on the tray, and fear took over. “When the dentist tried to insert a tool in her mouth, she bit his finger,” said her mother, Erica. “The dentist said that he could not treat her cavities because Lizbeth was being uncooperative.” Even though the Healthy Kids program covered Erica Vera’s daughter, she was unable to find another dentist who would accept her insurance. 

Download the full story here. (PDF)


Anjelig_GutierrezNov16Dominic, age 5
Siskiyou County

Anjelig Gutierrez discovered that her son, Dominic, had fragile teeth when he was a toddler. “He chipped a tooth when he was about 2 years old,” she said. “He also gets cavities easily.”

Anjelig lives in Yreka, CA, an area with only one dentist who accepts Medi-Cal, and where it takes months to get an appointment. “The staff at Early Head Start kept telling me that he needed to get his teeth seen, but the appointment was a long time away,” she said. 

 Download the full story here. (PDF)


Christie_DaughertyNov16Benjamin, age 4
Lassen County 

Benjamin had several cavities in his top front teeth that needed treatment. However, Benjamin has a heart murmur. The dentist was uncomfortable treating him due to his condition, and recommended an oral surgeon. “I called three or four offices that were a couple of hours away,” she said. “But no one accepted Medi-Cal.” Eventually, Benjamin would receive treatment at the University of San Francisco, more than nine hours away from Christie’s home in Susanville.

Download the full story here. (PDF) 


An estimated 17 million low-income children in America go without dental care each year.

(Source: The Pew Center on the States, The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children: California)

FACTSHEET: Dental Coverage for Children with Medi-Cal in LA County

LADentalFactsheet_FinalEnglishSpanish12.17.13For families that live in Los Angeles County, download this factsheet to find out how to find a dentist and what may be covered. The download contains both English and Spanish versions.  

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