Oral Health Advocates Push for Reform Effort To Include Dental Care
Many oral health experts believe dental health is being left out of current health reform discussions, the Washington Post reports.
Oral cancer kills more U.S. residents than cervical cancer, and research indicates that oral infections can affect pregnancy outcomes and complicate chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Eighty-two million adults have no dental insurance, according to the Post.
At least 26 million children lack dental coverage, which is more than double the number of children who do not have medical insurance, according to federal health statistics.
Kathleen O'Loughlin -- a dentist, educator and executive director of the American Dental Association -- said that dental care "is an essential part of overall health, and it shouldn't be overlooked" in current reform efforts. O'Loughlin added that because those who have the most at stake in dental health reform are the low-income, national reform efforts should focus on improving Medicaid and public health systems.
Burton Edelstein, a professor of dentistry and health policy management at Columbia University, said it has been "very challenging" for oral health professionals to join current reform debates. He said, "The mouth is the only body part or essential organ that is excluded from policymakers' routine consideration of health and health care."
Edelstein said he is encouraged that several dental provisions are included in the 615-page draft of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's health reform bill.
The draft includes dental care in a list of benefits that children should receive and emphasizes the importance of disease prevention and surveillance, safety net programs and improvements in the dental work force and public health infrastructure.Also, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is a leading congressional proponent of oral health, is working to keep the issue prevalent in legislation drafted in the House. He said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the bill will include incentives for dentists to treat more low-income patients, oral health literacy education for parents, preventive care programs for children and innovations to increase the dental work force (Otto, Washington Post, 6/23). 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.