American Dental Association Statement on PBS Frontline's 'Dollars and Dentists'

Categories: Press Releases

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June 27th, 2012

via press release:

American Dental Association Statement on PBS Frontline's
'Dollars and Dentists'

CHICAGO, June 27, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The American Dental
Association appreciates the mounting media interest in what Surgeon
General David Satcher, M.D., famously called a "silent epidemic" of
oral disease. Unfortunately, the situation has improved little since
Dr. Satcher wrote those words in 2000. The needless suffering caused by
untreated dental disease that could have been prevented or easily
treated in its early stages is unacceptable. Coverage by PBS's
"Frontline" and other media can increase awareness of this ongoing
tragedy and, we hope, the political will to do something about it.

We also are concerned, however, that "Frontline's" focus on allegations
of Medicaid fraud and abuse may create negative and erroneous
impressions about the larger sphere of Medicaid providers. Of course,
any dentist in any practice setting should adhere to the profession's
self-imposed ethical standards, and should be subject to the laws and
regulations of the state in which he or she practices. But we must not
let a few bad actors tarnish the work of thousands of honest, caring
dentists who treat Medicaid patients, often for breakeven or even
negative revenues. They do so because they feel a responsibility to
provide care to people whose economic circumstances would otherwise
prevent them from receiving it. Further, many dentists who cannot
afford to participate in Medicaid or wrestle with its often onerous
paperwork instead treat needy patients for free. One estimate has U.S.
dentists providing some $2.6 billion in free or discounted care in a
single year.

There are right ways and wrong ways to improve access to dental care in
America. The right way is to understand that while oral health care is
essential, the ultimate goal is oral health. The right way is to
recognize that there are multiple barriers that impede tens of millions
of Americans from attaining optimal oral health, including geography,
culture, language, poverty and, in the larger sense, a societal failure
to value oral health. Taking on just one of them won't work; we must
continue to approach the problems holistically. The wrong way is to
invest solely in therapist programs that other countries have used for
decades, with little appreciable effect on their rates of oral disease.

The country will never drill, fill and extract its way to victory over
untreated dental disease. A public health system based primarily on
surgical intervention in disease that could have easily been prevented
is ill conceived and doomed to fail. Community water fluoridation,
school based clinics that provide dental sealants to children,
rebuilding the tattered oral health safety net, improving health
literacy, and educating the public in basic preventive behaviors all
will dramatically improve the health of those suffering with untreated
disease and, more important, stop disease before it starts. Until we
reorient the focus toward these proven measures, the country will fail
to meet the needs of those who face the greatest barriers to good oral
health.

 
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