Contact: Jack Cardinal, 781.960.5208
BOSTON, MA – In response to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent statement about the dismal state of dental care access on her Instagram story, the National Partnership for Dental Therapy encourages Congress to support improved dental access and coverage, including supporting dental therapists as a viable solution.
Statement from Tera Bianchi, Dental Access Program Director at Community Catalyst:
"Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said it best – the most important thing about dental care is your health. Your salary and your zip code should not determine whether or not you have a healthy mouth. By sharing her story, the congresswoman has shone a light on this often overlooked health care issue.
"As schools begin to reopen across the country, the data on oral health and children is clear: kids with poor oral health miss more school and get lower grades, 20 percent of kids have at least one untreated decayed tooth, and those from low-income families are two times more likely to have cavities. And, dental access is even worse for those who rely on public insurance programs – just one-third of U.S. dentists accept any public insurance and few within that one-third accept a significant number of patients with Medicaid.
"For far too long, elite dentist lobby groups have put up roadblocks for dental therapists to enter states as a real solution for all communities because they see them as competition. They are choosing profits over maximizing solutions that will help kids, seniors, and low-income and rural communities get dental care. This puts nearly 60 million Americans at risk for major health issues.
"It’s an understatement to say this issue is a crisis for America’s health, but dental therapists are a proven solution. Dental therapists are increasing access to prevention services and reducing the need for extractions. The first dental therapy program in America recently passed a rigorous accreditation process by the same body that certifies dentist and dental hygienist programs. Put simply, dental therapists lead to more kids having healthier mouths, healthier bodies and keeping their natural born teeth."
"Improving communities’ oral health is a problem we can do something about. The question for leaders is pretty simple: Should all kids have equal access to dental care or not? Thank you, Congressman Ocasio-Cortez for amplifying the importance of oral health care, and we look forward to working with you and your office on solutions."
In just five years, there will be a projected shortage of more than 15,000 dentists. That shortage gets bigger when you factor in those who accept Medicaid and who know how to treat underserved communities. Barriers to dental care disproportionately affect low income, impoverished and elderly communities. Dental therapists focus on routine care, just like physician assistants, and make it possible for dental clinics to increase access to care where it is needed most. Dental therapists work or are authorized in 12 states, extending quality care to hundreds of thousands of Americans.