AAPD's Statement on Boy's Death Stresses Dental Care for Poor Children

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Dental Insurance For The Poor Needed

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) extends our deepest condolences to the family of 12-year-old, Maryland boy, Deamonte Driver, who lost his life from a severe brain infection that was caused by bacteria from an infected tooth. Deamonte Driver's death points to a complete system breakdown. The AAPD continues to advocate across the nation addressing ways to improve access to dental care for all children. As the state and federal Medicaid dental system now stands, it is badly broken in many states. Major improvements need to be made so that more children will not fall through the cracks. Although Deamonte Driver is a rare case, many children are at-risk.

Oral health is central to overall health. The mouth, as a part of the body, has long been ignored. Indeed, when dental problems go untreated innocent victims suffer the unfortunate consequences. This exemplifies the importance of every child having a dental home and the proper infrastructure in place to prevent and treat dental decay (for more information, refer to: http://www.aapd.org/dentalhome ).

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Currently, more than nine million children have no medical insurance, and the number grows even higher for those without dental insurance. Families who have Medicaid find the system overbearing, the paperwork burdensome, and access to care an ultimate challenge.* Additionally, establishing a federal guarantee for dental coverage in State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is critical.

The AAPD is working hard to support an infrastructure that can help families who need it most. In some states, such as Michigan, Alabama, Delaware, and Tennessee, the system has been improved. However, there is still a long way to go. At the end of March, AAPD's leading child advocates will be meeting with legislators in the nation's capital to address this growing epidemic. The AAPD will continue to be a beacon of support and advocacy for all children.

*The failures of Medicaid dental programs have even lead to lawsuits in some states, in a fight for equal access to quality healthcare. For example, a little over a year ago the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry joined with the Florida Pediatric Society and families in a lawsuit against the state Medicaid program. The lawsuit claims that Florida Medicaid fails to provide essential medical and dental services as required by Title XIX of the Social Security Act. "Title XIX mandates that all of these children be furnished Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Services ("EPSDT") - the primary, preventive, acute and specialty care and services which are necessary to their good health and development "

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