U.S. Senator puts spotlight on country's oral health crisis
March 1, 2012 -- The witnesses called to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee February 29 brought stories of unmet dental needs across the country.
And Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT), who called the hearing, said he had stories of his own -- some 1,200 of them, gathered from his constituents and other Americans. They were personal accounts, Sanders said, of the struggles that poor, elderly, and working Americans face trying to find and pay for dental care.
"We are in the midst of a dental crisis in America," said Sanders, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging and released a report to coincide with the hearing. "More than 47 million people live in places where it is difficult to get dental care. We don't have enough providers to serve all of those in need."
The hearing was called to explore the problems with the high cost of care and the lack of access to it, Sanders noted. The witnesses included oral health experts with sobering statistics and providers who said they had found innovative ways of reaching poor and underserved people within their communities.
“We are in the midst of a dental crisis in America.”
— Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
The lack of access comes at a high cost, not just in human suffering but in tens of millions of misspent state health care dollars, said Shelley Gehshan, director of the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. She cited a Pew study released this week that estimated that preventable dental conditions were the primary diagnosis in more than 830,000 emergency room visits in 2009, a 16% increase over 2006.