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Comment by American Dental Association President Raymond F. Gist, DDS On "Disparities in Child Access to Emergency Care for Acute Oral Injury"

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Washington, D.C., May 23, 2011—"The conclusion of the study, 'Disparities in Child Access to Emergency Care for Acute Oral Injury' in the current issue of Pediatrics speaks volumes:  'These results have implications for developing policies that improve access to oral health care.'

"Certainly, the study supports the ADA's longstanding position that better funding for public assistance programs is critical. Lack of funding is among the greatest barriers to better oral health in America.  But funding alone will not "fix" Medicaid.  Patients need help navigating an often complicated bureaucracy and overcoming other barriers. 

"The authors acknowledge the chronic underfunding that afflicts most state Medicaid programs.  The national average is bad enough.  Illinois, where the study was conducted, ranks in the bottom half of the states in Medicaid reimbursement rates.

"The ADA, state dental societies and numerous other individual and organizational stakeholders have long advocated for more states to implement the administrative and funding reforms that have been proven to work-that is, to dramatically increase dentists' participation in programs like Medicaid and patients' abilities to secure care-in states like Alabama, Tennessee and Michigan. 

"An ADA analysis of state children's Medicaid programs developed in 2003 and updated in 2009 demonstrated that when Medicaid reimbursement rates reach levels at which a majority of dentists consider the fees to be acceptable, participation and utilization increase dramatically. This is a tipping point, rather than a steady-scale phenomenon.

"But even when optimally funded, these programs cannot reach their potential without other significant reforms. These include reducing unnecessary red tape for dentists and patients, and helping patients overcome such related barriers as the needs for transportation, child care or permission to take time off from school or work to receive treatment.

"These other needs can be addressed without the dramatic funding increases that states are unlikely to offer in the current economic climate.  An ADA pilot program is educating a new type of community health worker, the Community Dental Health Coordinator, designed specifically to help people who have difficulty obtaining oral health care.  In addition to their primary focus on oral health education and disease prevention, CDHCs act as patient navigators, helping people secure and keep appointments with dentists who are able to treat them. 

"No child with a dental emergency should go without treatment.  Every child should have access to a dental home beginning at age one.  Yet 25 percent of the nation's children do not get the care that can help them attain the ultimate goal, good oral health.   As the nation's leading advocate for oral health, the ADA is committed to leading the way toward the day when no American who needs and seeks the care that leads to good oral health will be denied."

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.