News Release — Vermont State Dental Society
May 22, 2013
Washington, DC – The nation’s leading organization of dentists today announced a nationwide campaign aimed at boldly addressing the dental health crisis in the U.S. Statewide, the Vermont State Dental Society (VSDS) has pledged to actively engage and support the American Dental Association (ADA) campaign called “Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference.” This new initiative aims to reduce the numbers of adults and children with untreated dental disease, increase oral health education and prevention measures, and facilitate treatment now to people in need of care.
“The need is quite clear here in Vermont,” said David Averill, D.D.S. and President of the VSDS. “We know that oral health is essential to overall health and well being, and yet so many Vermonters cannot afford to see a dentist regularly. Our recent statewide Free Dental Care Day is illustrative of the fact that many low-income adults in the state need oral health treatment. Our 1700 volunteers treated 550 patients last weekend alone,” he added.
Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders was one of three keynote speakers at the ADA’s Leadership Conference held earlier this week in Washington, DC. Averill and VSDS Executive Director Vaughn Collins attended the conference as well as the official launch to the Action for Dental Health initiative today. The ADA campaign is designed to overcome the particular challenges Vermont faces as well as many other states in the nation, including affordability. A new Harris Interactive data report released today by the ADA confirmed a disturbing dental divide in America:
Nearly half of lower-income adults say they haven’t seen a dentist in a year or longer, while the vast majority of middle- and higher-income wage earners (70 percent) have.
Lower-income adults 18 and older are more than two times as likely as middle- and higher-income adults to have had all of their teeth removed (7 percent vs. 3 percent).
Nearly one in five (18 percent) lower-income adults have reported that they or a household member has sought treatment for dental pain in an emergency room at some point in their lives, compared to only seven percent of middle- and higher-income adults.
Only six percent of those low-income adults who went to the ER reported that the problem was solved.
Even though the Affordable Care Act offers little relief for adult Americans who lack dental coverage, 40% of lower-income adults believe that health care reform will help them obtain dental care.
The survey’s findings echo prior research from multiple sources. According to a new ADA Health Policy Resources Center analysis of 2010 MEPS and U.S. Census data, 181 million Americans did not visit the dentist in 2010. Nearly half of adults over age 30 suffer from some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and nearly one in four children under the age of five already have cavities.
Complex Problem Calls for a Coordinated National Action
“The causes of the dental health divide are varied and complex. However, dentists in Vermont not only believe it can be solved, but are committed to taking on this challenge, both as individuals and as oral health professionals,” said Collins.
Action for Dental Health is national and coordinated in its scope and approach, yet and it is designed to address the dental health challenges in Vermont and elsewhere in three distinct areas:
Provide care now to people suffering with untreated disease
Reduce by 35 percent by 2020 the number of people who visit the emergency room for dental conditions, by referring them to community health centers, private dental practices or other settings, where they can receive proper dental care.
Implement in at least 10 states by 2015 a long-term care program to improve the oral health of nursing home residents.
Expand the ADA Give Kids A Smile local community programs to provide education, screening and treatment to underserved children in order to achieve the vision statement of Give Kids a Smile: the elimination of cavities in children under five by 2020.
Strengthen and expand the public/private safety net to provide more care to more Americans
Help provide more care to people by having private-practice dentists contract with Federally Qualified Health Centers, therefore increasing the number patients receiving oral health services 175% by 2020.
Fight for increased dental health protections and simplified administration under Medicaid by increasing by 10% the number of states that have streamlined their credentialing process to less than one month.
Bring dental health education and disease prevention into communities
Ensure that 80% of Americans on public water systems have access to optimally fluoridated drinking water by 2020.
Increase from seven to 15 the number of states where Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) are active by 2015. CDHCs provide dental education and prevention services to the community and help people navigate the dental health system.
“We’ve made great progress, with each generation enjoying better dental health than the one before,” said ADA President Robert A. Faiella, D.M.D., M.M.Sc. “But there’s still a dangerous divide in America between those with good dental health and those without. Our mission is to close that divide. Good oral health isn’t a luxury. It’s essential. By working to ensure all Americans understand the connection between their dental and overall health, we can begin to solve this crisis.”