06/21/2010 - After Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy, died from an untreated dental infection in 2007, it's hard to forget that an $80 tooth extraction could have saved his life. Never have the words "system failure" rung so true.
For more than 10 years, the U.S. surgeon general has recognized dental disease as a "silent epidemic" impacting low-income and minority children most severely. Maryland was no different. By 2006, more than one-third of all Maryland kindergarteners and third-graders had untreated decay in their primary teeth, but more than 70 percent of children in the state's Medicaid program had not seen a dentist in the past year.
All that changed after Deamonte Driver.
His tragedy spurred a comprehensive response. Maryland's federal legislators decried the situation and called for federal reforms to help bolster state Medicaid and public health dental programs. Gov. Martin O'Malley and Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene John Colmers convened the Dental Action Committee — a statewide coalition of dental and medical health care providers, insurers, advocates, policymakers and academics — to study the oral health system.
The results are real. In the three years since the Deamonte Driver tragedy, Maryland has become a nationally recognized model for oral health care. According to a February 2010 report by The Pew Center on the States, Maryland was one of only six states to earn an "A" for its oral health programming.
Read the full article, Deamonte's Legacy, on the Baltimore Sun's Web site.