DENTAL HEALTH: No Smiles over U.S.’ Sub-Par Grade
The United States earned a "lackluster C-minus" grade on the nation's first Oral Health Report Card, released on Oct. 10 by the not-for-profit group Oral Health America, USA Today reports. The report card rates each state in three broad categories -- prevention efforts, access to dental care and oral health status -- and examines the causes of oral diseases discussed in U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher's recent report, "Oral Health in America." Several states -- Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, New York and North Carolina -- grabbed "top marks" in various categories, but none earned an overall "A", while North Dakota fared best overall, scoring a "B-minus". Although the OHA report found "extreme variations" among states in a number of areas such as fluoridation of drinking water, the United States as a whole earned its lowest ranking in the access to care category. About 108 million Americans, including 85% of the elderly, lack dental insurance, and 40 states earned "F"s for failing to provide seniors with coverage. In addition, 11 states, including California, received "F"s for failing to provide fluoridated water to "even 10% of residents." And 27 states "do [such] a poor job collecting data on oral health in children" that they could not be evaluated. According to OHA Director Robert Klause, the nation could improve dental care with "substantial political will and minimal funding." He said, "All of this is doable. That's what's so frustrating about it. It won't break the bank, either." Satcher agreed with the OHA report, noting, "The report card findings support what we have found nationally in the surgeon general's report. We found there are serious problems in terms of access to oral health care. There are 100 million people in this country without access to fluoridated water and over 100 million people in this country without dental health insurance." Satcher added that for every child with dental insurance, two to three children lack coverage, while only one in five children on Medicaid visit a dentist each year (Sternberg, USA Today, 10/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.