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Two years ago, California effectively eliminated dental health care benefits available to the 3 million citizens covered under its public healthcare program. Although some services are still available, this policy change forced a large number of residents with lower incomes to neglect their oral health until it became unavoidable, simply to save money.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in numerous cases, dental problems experienced by those lacking coverage had to reach the severity of rotting teeth or infections that spread to other parts of the body and endangered their life, while also causing excruciating pain.
The news source reports that this problem is by no means exclusive to California. Both the casual neglect of dental care and the occasional systemic difficulties of dental insurance - from private insurers or government programs - are issues that have been present in the U.S. for some time, often hitting the economically disadvantaged harder than any other group.
Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., a Seattle pediatrician who supervised a National Institute of Medicine report on U.S. dental care issues, believes doctors can work together to improve existing problems.
"Oral health isn't just the responsibility of dentists," he told the news source. "There is a real need to have other healthcare providers involved."
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that only 25 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 to 64 claim to have excellent oral health.
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