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Health care reform missed the dentist

Perhaps a tooth ache isn’t life threatening. Neither is a cold or even a broken bone. But the latter two are addressed via health care reform (everyone hopes) while the tooth ache is not. And with 132 million Americans without dental insurance there are a lot of cavities going unfilled. Don’t the dentist have a strong enough lobby? Actually, the American Dental Association opposed the health care bill due to ack of increased funding for Medicaid dental services. More about that later.

Actually, it is said that periodontal disease can cause or worsen heart conditions, strokes, and respiratory illness. Even worse consequences await diabetics, a rabidly growing group in the U.S. So seeing a dentist regularly and taking care of issues before they become major become increasingly important as people get older. But the elderly are one of the groups most likely to have insufficient dental coverage. And as people grow older they naturally tend to have more dental issues. Root canals and crowns get to be regular events and at $800 to $1,200 each the uninsured are playing a dangerous waiting game while trying to figure out how to afford it.

Medicare offers now assistance when it comes to preventitive dental care while Medicaid has spotty acceptance among dentists in many states. The paperwork burden and characteristically difficult patients that use Medicaid compel many dentists to avoid it altogether. Interestingly, while 175 million Americans have private medical insurance only 45 million of those have any sort of dental plan. Is it considered less important or sort of optional? The fear of a tooth ache perhaps doesn’t compare with the fear of a sudden major illness.

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