The dental crisis extends far beyond California

The Center has produced a bevy of stories on California dental issues, focusing on access-to-care problems with managed dental programs in Medi-Cal. But California is not the only place suffering from the ills of questionable dental policy.

This week, in Washington, D.C., a senator and congressman held a press conference to decry what they call “the national crisis in dental care.”

We could point to our own crisis – a term we haven’t used to describe California’s dental issues – when we report that in certain counties, fewer than a third of poor children see a dentist in a year. And we suspect that some of the national statistics cited by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) aren’t too far off for California, either. They include that as many as 130 million Americans are without dental insurance and that a fourth of senior citizens have lost all of their teeth.

The two members of Congress said they’ve introduced twin bills that they label “the most comprehensive dental care legislation in American history.” It would greatly expand dental coverage, making available more dental services at community clinics and schools. It also proposes measures to take dentistry to underserved areas, offering scholarships and expanding the training of dental therapists.

Given the country’s economic climate and the general political nastiness in Washington, there’s not much likelihood that any bill that asks for money will receive serious consideration. But just by raising awareness of the dental issues facing the nation, the two members have done a service to better health. Sen. Sanders’ site includes his announcement, a special Senate report on the “Dental Crisis in America,” and the proposed legislation.

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