More than 48 million people in the United States live in areas with dentist shortages. Access to care is also limited for the 72 million children and adults who rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program: Only about one-third of U.S. dentists accept public insurance.
Left untreated, dental health problems can cause pain and tooth loss, impair children’s growth and social development, impede productivity and job opportunities, exacerbate chronic conditions, and complicate detection of oral cancers. And when dental pain becomes too severe to ignore, many people—more than 2 million in 2012—resort to emergency room visits, which provide no treatment for underlying oral health problems but have a high price for patients and taxpayers: $1.6 billion in 2012, with Medicaid’s share totaling $520 million.
Pew’s dental campaign works to close gaps in dental care access by increasing the number of available providers and expanding the reach of preventive services through the use of dental sealant programs in high-need schools. Research shows that such programs are a valuable, cost-effective way to treat the children most at risk of tooth decay
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A recent report by the Gerontological Society of America provides a plan to address the unmet need for oral health care services for older adults with limited access to care. Read More
The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) in Coos Bay, Oregon, hired the state’s first dental health aide therapist (dental therapist). Naomi Petrie, a graduate of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s dental education program, had been training for two years in common preventive and routine restorative dental care. Read More
Children and adults had lower rates of tooth extractions and more preventive care in Alaska Native communities served frequently by dental health aide therapists than residents in communities not receiving these services, according to a new study released by the University of Washington. Read More
Working With Midlevel Providers
Dentists share their perspectives on these practitioners.