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State dental director Jacqueline Miller approaches one year on the job

Jacqueline Miller was named the Missouri State Dental Director last August after spending almost 30 years as a private practice orthodontist. As the first woman to take the position, Miller has a list of goals she is striving to achieve as the dental director, from expanding the Preventive Service Program to increasing HPV vaccination rates and expanding Medicaid to cover dentures.

Miller was surprised to find out she was the first woman to take the role.

Miller: You're, you're catching me a little off guard because I guess that is true… But very exciting… I really had not thought about the fact that I was the first female to be very truthful. But that hasn't really fazed me.

One of her goals while acting as state dental director is to extend MO HealthNet’s coverage of silver diamine fluoride, which Miller says currently covers children ages zero to five. She hopes to extend coverage to 20 year olds.

Miller also wants to expand the Preventive Services Program, which sends dentists and hygienists to schools to do checkups for students.

Lee: Who would be going into schools?

Miller: It's anybody who wants to volunteer. I used to do it myself. I didn't even know that it was a program ran by the state.

As the state dental director, Miller now oversees the program she used to take part in.

Miller: And we would take a look at all the kiddos and take a look to see if there's any active cavities going on. Or if there's any active infections… And if there's something that needs care right away, if we see a dental infection, then we work with the school nurses to find that kiddo a dental home… And it's at no charge to the students whatsoever.

Miller also hopes to increase HPV vaccination rates, which would decrease head and neck cancer rates in the future.

In addition to all of that, Miller wants to put it out there that she is trying to get Medicaid in Missouri to cover dentures.

Lee: Are there other states where dentures or replacements are covered?

Miller: There are currently 10 states that provide coverage for dentures. It's Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Now, Nevada only allows coverage on emergency basis, and North Dakota only covers them for people under 18. Missouri doesn’t make the list.

Miller:  it allows for the extraction of teeth but it does not allow for the replacement of teeth. And we receive multiple calls every week where people just are unable to afford dentures…

It's very difficult for somebody to be able to have a job and not be able… to speak… And it's especially difficult to get a job if you either have poor dental look, and especially if you don't have anterior teeth to smile with is huge.

Approaching her one-year anniversary as director, Miller says she’s enjoying the opportunity the role has given her to help with public health initiatives.

Miller: I am just thoroughly enjoying this job… I think we're making a huge impact in care for Missourians. And I look forward to seeing what we can do in the future with all of our stakeholders and collaborators.

Abby Lee is a student at the University of Missouri studying journalism and women’s and gender studies. She has interned with mxdwn Music and The Missouri Review.