On Tuesday, March 27, Kathleen Roth, DDS, president of the ADA, testified before the Health Subcommittee of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee. Roth urged 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,” Roth said, referring to the Maryland child who died as a result of an untreated abcess. “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 Roth:

• every child should see a dentist within 6 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; and

• we must embrace innovations in the dental workforce. The ADA has modeled a new type of allied dental professional, the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC), which could greatly enhance the productivity of the dental team by extending dental health care’s reach into underserved communities. The CDHC combines the provision of preventive services with triage, case management, and referral to fully qualified dentists when needed.

During her testimony, Roth offered examples of Medicaid programs in various states that have improved access to dental care. She also testified that dentists in a single year delivered $1.6 billion in free or discounted care, but that volunteer and charitable efforts are not enough.

“Dentists can do more, but only if state and federal governments give us the support we need,” Roth says. “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.”

[www.ada.org, March 27, 2007]