Im­pacts health

Stanstead Journal - - FO­RUM -

fourth of adults age 65 or older have lost all their teeth; only 45 per­cent of Amer­i­cans age 2 and older had a den­tal visit in the past 12 months and more than 16 mil­lion low­in­come chil­dren go each year with­out see­ing a den­tist.

Lack of den­tal ac­cess is a na­tional prob­lem but those who are most im­pacted are peo­ple who are low in­come, racial or eth­nic mi­nori­ties, preg­nant women, older adults, those with spe­cial needs, and those who live in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. Sim­ply put, the groups that need care the most are the least likely to get it.

What we also learned at the hear­ing is that ac­cess to den­tal care is about more than a pretty smile. Peo­ple with den­tal prob­lems can be forced to live with ex­treme pain which af­fects their qual­ity of life, and a mouth with­out teeth may make it dif­fi­cult to find and keep a job. Den­tal prob­lems can have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on over­all health and can in­crease the risk of di­a­betes, heart dis­ease, di­ges­tive prob­lems and poor birth out­comes. In some cases, den­tal con­di­tions have re­sulted in great tragedy such as the death of 12-year-old Dea­monte Driver of Mary­land five years ago.

In or­der to ad­dress the den­tal cri­sis fac­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, the U.S. Congress must take strong ac­tion now. My of­fice is work­ing on a com­pre­hen­sive piece of den­tal leg­is­la­tion which will ad­dress the fol­low­ing con­cerns:

First, the United States needs more den­tal providers to serve those in need, and the providers need to work in ar­eas where the need is great­est. Cur­rently, more den­tists are re­tir­ing than are grad­u­at­ing den­tal schools. We also need to ex­pand the den­tal work­force to in­clude al­lied den­tal providers such as den­tal ther­a­pists in or­der to ex­tend the ca­pac­ity of den­tal prac­tices and reach un­der­served pop­u­la­tions.

Se­cond, not only do we need more den­tal providers, but there must be a na­tional call for those in prac­tice to start serv­ing more low-in­come peo­ple. Only 20 per­cent of the na­tion’s prac­tic­ing den­tists pro­vide care to peo­ple with Med­i­caid and only an ex­tremely small per­cent­age de­vote a sub­stan­tial part of their prac­tice to car­ing for those who are un­der­served.

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