Lack of access to dental care is a significant problem in American health care. Last week, USA Today reported that the number of adults seeking help in the emergency room for “long-delayed dental care” has doubled since 2000. This finding highlights data we released in May showing that dental care is one of the most persistent unmet health care needs for many adults.
Dr. Mary Williard, a mother and a dentist working in Alaska Native communities, describes how our broken dental care system brought her adopted daughter into her life for the first time. And, how an innovation she has made her life's work could change the way we provide dental care to the millions in the United States, like her daughter, who have suffered without it.
In just 10 years, dental therapists in Alaska have been able to expand dental care to 40,000 people here who couldn’t get that care before. They are so effective because they work with dentists as part of a team to bring dental care to communities that dentists can’t get to very often.
February is Children’s Dental Health Month—the perfect time to raise awareness about the importance of oral health and the work that remains to ensure that all children have access to high-quality, affordable dental coverage and care. Congress, state lawmakers, and regulators can make progress on some of the nation’s most pressing children’s dental health issues by following the recommendations we discuss here.