Bulletin of Dental Education

Dentistry in the News - April 2010

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Oral Health America Raises Record-Breaking Amount for Smiles

Gala attendees (left to right): Jodi Brown of Walgreens Co., Dan Perkins of ADEA corporate member AEGIS Communications, ADEA Associate Executive Director and Director of the Center for Public Policy and Advocacy Jack Bresch, Jen Hull of Trident, and Beth Truett of Oral Health America.The historic Union Station in Chicago was the site for Oral Health America's 20th annual gala and benefit on February 24. Close to 900 guests attended the event, which helped to raise a record-breaking amount of more than $400,000 during the silent and live auctions. Proceeds from the auctions will continue to support Smiles Across America, which provides oral disease prevention services to 250,000 children each year.

"Our gala shined a special spotlight on our work with children in school-based and school-linked settings across the country, and gave attendees the opportunity to support a national program that is at work with at-risk children and families in schools, clinics and neighborhoods in their own communities," said Beth Truett, President and CEO of Oral Health America.

Study: Majority of States Fail To Ensure Proper Dental Health and Access to Care for Children

An estimated one in five children in America go without dental care each year and two-thirds of states do not have effective policies in place to ensure proper dental health and access to care, according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children, released with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the DentaQuest Foundation, grades each state's policy responses to the urgent challenges in dental health among America's low-income children.

"Millions of children go without dental care each year but the good news is, it's fixable," said Ms. Shelly Gehshan, Director of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. "By enacting a handful of effective policies, states can help eliminate the long-term health and economic consequences of untreated dental problems among kids. Several states are leading the way - but all states can and must do more to ensure access to dental care for the 17 million children left out of the system."

Pew scored all 50 states and the District of Columbia, using an A-F scale, on whether and how well they employ eight proven policy solutions to ensure dental health and access to care for children. These policies fall into four categories: cost-effective ways to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place, Medicaid improvements that enable and motivate more dentists to treat disadvantaged children, new workforce models that expand the number of qualified dental providers, and gathering data to gauge progress and improve performance.

Only six states merited "A" grades: Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. These states met at least six of the eight policy benchmarks and had policies in place that met or exceeded the national performance standards. These high grades do not mean that all people in the state have access to quality dental care services. Severe access problems still exist in states that received "A" grades, but these states have policies in place needed to improve dental care.

"Unfortunately, while some states are improving access to oral health care, there are still millions of children and families - especially those who are poor and live in communities of color - who can't gain access to the care that exists," said Mr. Sterling K. Speirn, President and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "States need to explore creative workforce solutions, such as the dental therapist model, for addressing this glaring gap in our health care system, and improving access to quality oral health care for all children."

There are many solutions that can be achieved at relatively little cost, and the return on investment for children and taxpayers will be significant. Americans are expected to spend $106 billion on dental care in 2010. This includes many expensive restorative treatments - from fillings to root canals - that could have been mitigated or avoided altogether with earlier, easier and less expensive ways of ensuring adequate dental care when they were children.

Full information, including proposed low-cost solutions, is available at www.pewcenteronthestates.org/report_detail.aspx?id=56870]0.

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