Category Archives: Oral health

Dental tourism: Americans leaving the country for oral health care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Experts say many thousands of Americans are now going abroad for dental care. The growing phenomenon of dental tourism is believed to make up a sizable portion of the worldwide multibillion-dollar medical tourism market.

While exact numbers are impossible to find, and even estimates are scarce, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions estimated that 1.6 million Americans would traveled abroad for all types of medical care in 2012 with dental treatments heading the list of procedures sought.

Find out why people are leaving the country for care, some of the concerns about receiving care in other countries as well as some sources for reporting in this new tip sheet.

What early numbers tell us about kids’ dental coverage under ACA

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

child-dentist

Image by Herald Post via flickr.

Children’s dental benefits are listed among the 10 essential health benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet there is no federal requirement that people buy dental coverage for themselves or their children when obtaining health insurance on state marketplaces.

That lack of a mandate is having an impact, a new study from the American Dental Association concludes.

An average of just 15.9 percent of children obtained stand-alone dental coverage along with their medical plans across the 37 states included in the study. By the same measure, more adults – an average of 20 percent – obtained dental benefits along with their medical plans, according to the ADA’s analysis of data gleaned from the February 2014 marketplace enrollment report submitted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Continue reading

Lack of access to dental care leads to expensive emergency room care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

In recent years, hospital emergency departments (EDs) have drawn millions of poor and underinsured patients coping with dental problems. Yet EDs remain tremendously expensive and ineffective sources of dental care, two new studies remind us.

Between 2008 and 2010, more than 4 million patients turned to hospital EDs for help with dental conditions at a cost of $2.7 billion. Research suggests that the vast majority did not receive dental procedures, but were instead treated with prescription medications. A total of 101 of the patients died in the emergency rooms, according to the study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The authors used data gleaned from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), to produce their paper. They found that uninsured patients made slightly more than 40 percent of all dental-condition related ED visits. Continue reading

Oral health disparities persist despite advances in prevention #ahcj14

Kelsey Ryan

About Kelsey Ryan

Kelsey Ryan (on Twitter, @kelsey_ryan) covers health care for The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle. She is a 2014 AHCJ Rural Health Journalism Fellow.

Photo by Pia ChristensenJonathan Bowser of the University of Colorado School of Medicine called oral health “the low-hanging fruit of primary care prevention.”

Photo by Pia ChristensenJonathan Bowser of the University of Colorado School of Medicine called oral health “the low-hanging fruit of primary care prevention.”

In 2007, a 12-year-old Maryland boy named Deamonte Driver died from a tooth infection that spread to his brain. His family had lost Medicaid coverage and an $80 tooth extraction might have saved his life, wrote Washington Post staff writer Mary Otto, whose story helped spotlight oral health disparities.

Oral disease is a disease of poverty, said Diane Brunson, R.D.H., M.P.H., director of public health and interprofessional education at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, during a session called “Covering disparities in oral health,” at Health Journalism 2014 in Denver. Continue reading

Questions arise about oversight of pediatric dentists, sedation

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Alia Wong

The state of Hawaii continues to investigate the death of a three-year-old girl who went into a coma after visiting a dentist’s office.

Last month, I wrote about the coverage by Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I also put together a pediatric anesthesia tip sheet with links to some helpful resources.

In the meantime, reporter Alia Wong has also been following the tragic story of the death of Finley Boyle and weighed in with a long Jan. 21 piece for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Wong brings us up to date on the kinds of questions that are being raised in the wake of the child’s death. She writes that questions are being raised about whether dentist Lilly Geyer, who was treating Finley, should have been advertising herself as a “children’s dentist.”

And she explains that “pediatric dentists do a rigorous and competitive two-year residency program in which they get training in specific skills such as child sedation while general dentists aren’t required to do a residency program.”

In a Q&A for AHCJ, she reveals what other questions have come up and what she learned about sedating children for dental procedures. See what story ideas her experience might spark for you.

HHS moves to block chain of dental clinics from receiving Medicaid

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

David Heath

David Heath

Small Smiles, one of the nation’s largest dental chains, is facing exclusion from Medicaid, David Heath of the Center for Public Integrity reported this week.

The chain has been accused of performing unnecessary treatments on children to boost profits. With Medicaid dental providers in short supply in many communities, the ouster of Small Smiles from the program could send thousands of poor families in search of new dentists.

“The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services notified the chain last week that after years of monitoring, the company remains out of compliance with the terms of a 2010 settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit brought by the Justice Department,” Heath wrote in his March 11 report. Continue reading

Movement toward enabling dental therapists gets boost in Maine

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

The battle over mid-level dental providers has come to Maine and reporters at the Portland Press Herald have been closely covering it.

A bill that would allow dental therapists to practice in the state advanced in the legislature on March 6 but will require additional votes in the house and senate before it reaches the desk of the governor, staff writer Steve Mistler reported.

The legislation had been amended from a previous version to tighten dentists’ supervisory roll over the auxiliaries.

“The amendment, designed to gain the support of Gov. Paul LePage, strengthens portions of the bill to ensure that therapists are directly supervised by licensed dentists,” Mistler explained to readers. Continue reading

Growth, expanding scope of practice among changes for dental assistants

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Image by University of the Fraser Valley via flickr.

There are more than 300,000 dental assistants at work across America and their ranks are expected to increase 25 percent in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as a result of the recognition of the link between oral health and overall health.

Their work often includes helping dentists with procedures, taking and developing X-rays, preparing and sterilizing  instruments, making appointments, keeping records, and giving patients post-operative instructions.

But, from state to state, duties, credentialing, and training standards vary widely.

Oral health topic leader Mary Otto provides some background, the latest news on what’s happening in various states and links in a new tip sheet to help reporters learn what changes may be in the works in their state – just in time for Dental Assistants Recognition Week, March 2-8. It might be an opportunity to take a look at this changing profession and write about what dental assistants are doing in your state.

S.C. adults may gain dental benefits as part of Medicaid plan

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image by sunnyviewdental via flickr.

Image by sunnyviewdental via flickr.

Adult dental benefits would be added to South Carolina’s Medicaid program under a plan being considered by the state legislature.

Preventive and restorative dental benefits for poor adults are part of a package of proposed Medicaid enhancements that also includes health screenings and weight-loss help, Seanna Adcox reported in a Feb. 5 story for The Associated Press.

The new benefits were part of state Medicaid Director Tony Keck’s budget presentation before a House Ways and Means panel, Adcox wrote. The initiatives would cost $15.3 million from state taxes and $52 million total when including federal money.

Currently, the state Medicaid program covers only emergency tooth extractions in specific cases of medical necessity. Continue reading

Free clinics mark Children’s Dental Health Month

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image by ktpupp via flickr.

Image by ktpupp via flickr.

Open wide! A free one-day dental clinic for low-income children may be coming to a school or community center near you.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity for oral health professionals and advocates to raise awareness about the importance of getting care to kids, particularly those who might otherwise go without.

On Friday, Feb. 7, the American Dental Association is officially kicking off its 12th annual Give Kids a Smile Day program with free care for kids at the Howard University College of Dentistry here in Washington, D.C.

Similar events are being planned throughout the country. To find out what is going on in own area, check with your local or state dental society.

Give Kids a Smile clinics are typically organized differently than the big free Mission of Mercy events that have crowds of adults lining up spontaneously at fairgrounds and gymnasiums. The 175 children expected at the Howard University dental college were screened in December by volunteer dentists who visited local elementary schools. The kids will be getting their needed follow-up treatments on Give Kids a Smile Day. Continue reading