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A dental health crisis - and what can be done
Updated: 10/31/2013 6:00:07 PM
 

A dental health crisis - and what can be done

News agencies are reporting of a national dental health crisis, in which few Americans have dental insurancee and the state of the nation's teeth are falling into decay. While many are speculating on the potential disaster facing the country, one dentist offers his own solutions.

A nationwide problem
?The American Dental Association conducted a recent study to assess the dental health of the nation. What the association found was a stark divide in coverage between lower-income and middle- to higher-income families. For example, while 75 percent of middle- to higher-income families have a family dentist, only 47 percent of lower-income Americans do. Additionally, lower-income Americans are twice as likely to live with an untreated cavity. While there are many reasons for this divide, some have cited lack of coverage, with only 2 percent of older Americans having insurance.

"Until we have an expansion of this kind of coverage, and until we have people really recognizing what this means for their overall health, I do believe we have an unimaginable tragedy on our hands," said Beth Truett, president and CEO of Oral Health America, according to CNN.

Finding a way out
Yet, Robert Faiella?, D.M.D., president of the American Dental Association, recently presented his own solution for the U.S.'s dental problem.The three-part plan focuses first on providing care to those who need immediate attention. According to Faiella, the longer that patients delay treatment, the worse their teeth are going to be down the road. The burden of emergency dental care ends up falling in the laps of emergency rooms that are already overworked and not equipped to handle dental patients. Faiella's solution would be to refer these patients to local dentists and programs that aim at providing care fast.

Secondly, Faiella hopes to expand dental coverage. This may be done not only by increasing finances of underfunded government programs, but also through dentist partnerships that work with community health facilities to bring dental care to those who need it most.

Finally, the U.S. should expand programs that educate poor and dentally underserved communities about the importance of dental health and means of disease prevention. These are not overly complex lessons about dental health, but rather a basic emphasis on the importance of brushing and flossing. It's this foundation of prevention that can ultimately help to bring about better dental care.

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