Commentary: Dental care is health care. Mainers need access to it.

For above a calendar year, the pandemic has proven us how public overall health procedures can develop a domino outcome, affecting families, educational facilities and the overall economic system. We have also observed how very good public wellbeing coverage, this kind of as prioritizing the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, has saved life, gotten men and women back to work and authorized us to securely hug our cherished ones once again. But for a long time, we have been observing the detrimental impacts of an place of community overall health that has not been prioritized below in Maine, and which is dental treatment.

Dr. Douglas Huntley inspects a younger patient’s mouth during a plan checkup in Skowhegan in 2017. L.D. 1501 would increase Maine’s School Oral Well being Software to serve all schools in the state by 2025, making use of federal funding to cover the prices of delivering preventive dental companies in colleges. Michael G. Seamans/Early morning Sentinel, File

Maine ranks second to final in the nation in the proportion of small children insured by Medicaid who acquire any preventive dental treatment. Even between young children who have constant personal dental advantages, way too lots of go with no care.

There are many reasons for this prolonged-standing trouble. Maine suffers from a lack of dentists. In big regions of the condition, it can take a number of several hours to vacation to a dental business office. In some parts of the point out, no dental places of work are accepting new patients with MaineCare.

Dental ailment plagues so a lot of men and women in Maine that we often fail to remember it is a ailment we know how to protect against and address. It is triggered by a bacterial an infection, not by inconsistent dental cleanliness habits. As soon as the disease system starts off, you simply cannot brush your way out of it, and it will inevitably impact your general wellbeing and nicely-staying. Brushing and flossing are important instruments to stop the disease, but others, like fluoride varnish and sealants, are readily available only through a hygienist or dentist.

The Legislature has a wonderful option this session to boost oral well being in Maine with quite a few critical costs. For illustration, L.D. 996 provides a extensive dental advantage to MaineCare for adults, masking the complete array of preventive and restorative treatment that individuals require to prevent dental emergencies and guard their oral overall health.

An additional significant piece of this plan puzzle is L.D. 1501, An Act To Shield Oral Wellbeing for Young children in Maine. This invoice directs the condition to expand its University Oral Well being Plan to serve all universities in the point out by 2025 and to effectively use federal Medicaid funding to assist protect the prices of offering preventive dental services in educational facilities. It would also restore an oral health coordinator posture inside of the Maine Heart for Ailment Command and Prevention to present public wellness management to meet up with our people’s oral wellbeing demands.

For many family members, insurmountable obstacles existed to accessing dental care even right before the pandemic, and now those people obstacles are even worse. Lots of dental offices guide checkups 6 months in advance, and people usually do not have the overall flexibility to choose time off from do the job for a dental checkup. Reliable transportation can also be a problem, notably in rural Maine.

The Faculty Oral Health and fitness Program supplies a way for the dental job and our state to actively attain extra kids. Merely waiting for far more individuals to clearly show up to dental workplaces is permitting too quite a few young children down. It is time for us to meet them halfway. If we are really critical about fixing this difficulty, we need to have a viable faculty plan that serves little ones in which they already are.

The state’s School Oral Overall health Application has performed this job for many years in Maine, but it has been hamstrung by funding and staffing cuts. At this time, only about a third of schools in the point out are served. We have the opportunity to broaden this software to make certain that no baby suffers from preventable dental illness.

When we sacrifice our children’s oral wellness to conserve a couple pennies, we pay back a much worse selling price, and we shell out it around and about again. Just as we are defeating this pandemic with good general public coverage, we can make oral wellbeing treatment available to all Maine households via measures that address the root (canal) of the trouble. L.D. 1501 delivers a distinct path forward.

This is a winnable fight, and the solutions are in the arms of the Legislature this session. Oral overall health is health, and dental care is health care.


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