Association president to urge Congress to improve access to dental care

March 29, 2007
American Dental Association's Kathleen Roth was scheduled to testify March 27 about topic before the Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

WASHINGTON, DC--Kathleen Roth, DDS, president of the American Dental Association, was scheduled to testify March 27 before the Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on improving access to dental care. Dr. Roth planned to urge the subcommittee to reform Medicaid in order to better address unmet oral health needs.

"I was shocked by the death of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver�," Dr. Roth said. "I believe that we have an obligation to honor this child and his family by saying,`No more.' No more needless deaths. No more children unable to eat or sleep properly, unable to pay attention in school, unable to smile because of dental disease that could easily have been prevented and treated."

According to Dr. Roth:

* Every child should see a dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, and no later than the child's first birthday.

* Additional community-based initiatives are needed, such as water fluoridation, and the broader availability of dental sealants and topical fluoride.

* We must embrace innovations in the dental workforce. The ADA has modeled a new type of allied dental professional, the Community Dental Health Coordinator, which could greatly enhance the productivity of the dental team, by extending our reach into underserved communities. The CDHC model is unique, in that it combines the provision of preventive services with triage, case management and referral to fully qualified dentists when needed.

During her testimony, Dr. Roth was to offer examples of Medicaid programs in various states that have improved access to dental care. She also planned to testify that dentists in single year delivered $1.6 billion in free or discounted care, but that volunteer and charitable efforts aren't enough--charity is not a health care system.

"Dentists can do more, but only if state and federal governments give us the support we need," Dr. Roth said. "We call upon our many friends in Congress to work with us to ensure that every American child can face his or her future with a smile."

For more information about the ADA, visit the association's Web site at American Dental Association.