Advocates for the poor and uninsured have worked long and hard to bring attention to the shortage of dental care for millions of Americans. On Wednesday, the American Dental Association weighed in on the problem too, announcing a nationwide campaign designed to respond to address what leaders called the nation’s “dental crisis.”
“We’ve made great progress with each generation enjoying better dental health than the one before,” ADA President Robert Faiella, D.M.D., noted. “But there is still a dangerous divide in America between those with good dental health and those without. Our mission is to close that divide. Good oral health isn’t a luxury – it’s essential.”
Yet many go without that care.
While a vast majority of middle- and upper-income Americans reported good access to dental services, nearly half of lower-income adults said they had not seen a dentist in a year or more, according to a Harris poll released by the ADA as part of the campaign’s launch. The poll also found that poor Americans are more than two times as likely to be toothless than their wealthier counterparts and that low-income adults were far more likely to seek last-resort care in emergency rooms than their better-off counterparts. Continue reading
Dental folks collectively caught their breath when they heard about the study, just published in the journal Pediatrics.
The findings: Children whose parents “cleaned” dropped pacifers by sucking on them were less likely to have asthma or eczema at 18 months than children whose parents did not use this particular method.
In a May 6 story for National Public Radio, reporter Rob Stein explained the findings. He started out by talking with a typical mom who described washing her child’s pacifier when he dropped it, even cleaning it in boiling water if it fell “somewhere particularly gross.”
But, then Stein went on to say “there’s a theory that says: That may not be the best way to go. That sterilizing that pacifier may actually have a big downside. To try to find out, Bill Hesselmar, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and his colleagues, studied 184 babies who used pacifiers and their parents. Continue reading
Photo by ianus via Flickr
An estimated 5.3 million children are expected to get dental coverage next year through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But will up to 11 million parents decide to drop their own dental benefits when their kids get covered separately?
It’s one of the still-unanswered questions surrounding the health care reform law and it worries Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, the trade association representing the dental benefits industry.
The problem is this, according to Ireland: Continue reading
Using technology in health care to interact with people certainly opens up new avenues of communication and yields more data than ever. The intriguing question of whether and to what degree such interactions actually influence health behavior and improve health remains to be answered. Panelists in a Health Journalism 2013 session on the topic shared their highly varied experiences in applying technologies and social media tools to address specific concerns.
To reduce hospital readmissions by ensuring that patients know what to do when they go home,. Brian Jack, M.D., chair of family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine Boston, created an interactive tool for patients as part an initiative called Project RED or Project Re-Engineered Discharge. Virtual patient advocates interact with patients at their bedside on a touch screen, reviewing discharge information to prepare patients, then confirming their understanding by asking questions. Patients express near unanimous satisfaction with the tool, finding it easy to use even for those who have never used a computer.
Project RED also introduced a checklist for hospitals to use with elements known to reduce readmissions, such as identifying correct medications and a plan for taking them, as well as an after-hospital care plan and color-coded calendar that patients and families love. Continue reading
At the Health Journalism 2013 session on Shaping the Pediatric Brain, independent journalist David Dobbs shared insights on researching and writing his 2009 article for The Atlantic, “The Science of Success.”
The article served as a springboard for a book that Dobbs is working on about behavioral genetics, tentatively titled “The Orchid and the Dandelion.” The book title plays off a new theory of genetics based on the hypothesis that “dandelion” children appear to grow up okay regardless of their environment. That is, they’ll be fine in a garden, a greenhouse or a crack in the sidewalk.
“Orchid” children, on the other hand, thrive under good care (a greenhouse), do okay in a so-so environment (garden), and wilt in a bad environment (crack in the sidewalk). Over the past couple of years, this hypothesis has started gaining momentum among child development specialists and behavioral geneticists interested in how environment and genetics shape who we are. Continue reading
The notion that what happens to you when you’re young can stay with you for years is a compelling one, but it’s not new.
A look at some of the issues, sessions and ideas to keep in mind for those planning to attend Health Journalism 2013, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
Sigmund Freud became a cultural icon for his theories on early experience and the future psyche. Literature has long weaved childhood memories into adult relationships and mental wellbeing. So have movies. (See: “The Three Faces of Eve,” “Prince of Tides,” “Mystic River”….) The concept simply resonates – both as a psychological construct, and as a metaphorical one.
So why have a conference session now on this seemingly classic idea?
Neuroscience – that’s why. The discipline of brain research has exploded in recent years – largely as a result of beautiful new imaging methods and advanced genetic technology. Scientists can compare the brains of very young children with those same brains years later. They can compare the brains of people who underwent certain childhood experiences (good or bad) with those who didn’t. Or they can seek answers about humans through brain research on animals. All this helps find connections between trauma and brain structure, between genetic make-up and resilience – with a farther-off goal of developing helpful therapies. I think it also feeds into one of the most enduring questions of psychology: which qualities are innate, and which ones are molded by time, development, and experience. Continue reading
The lack of dental care is a big problem for children living below the poverty level and untreated tooth decay hits Hispanic children particularly hard.
Data from one large national survey found a full 26 percent of Hispanic 6- to 9-year olds suffered from untreated tooth decay, compared with 14 percent of non-Hispanic white children of the same age.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and oral health advocates from the Maryland Dental Action Coalition just launched a new campaign, Dientes Sanos, Ninos Sanos, (Healthy Teeth, Healthy Children) tailored to reach more of the state’s at-risk kids.
“This started because Hispanic children have more tooth decay than other populations, said Harry Goodman, D.M.D., M.P.H., director of the Office of Oral Health at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He stopped by the Prince George’s County Health Department dental clinic on Feb. 1 to help kick off the effort. It expands on a statewide English-language oral health literacy initiative and includes Spanish language posters for bus and train shelters, brochures, a series of radio spots and a website, DientesSanosNinosSanos.org aimed at raising oral health literacy and helping Spanish-speaking parents find dental care for their children. Continue reading
Ron Jackson of Oklahoma Watch wrote one of the best stories I’ve seen laying out the policy dimensions and the human face of the decision by some states to forgo Medicaid expansion.
You’ll recall, of course, that when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act it made the Medicaid expansion a state option, not a requirement.
That created an anomaly that the law’s authors did not intend: People with incomes at the poverty level and up to four times the poverty level (roughly $92,000 for a family of four) will be able to get subsidized insurance in the state-based health exchanges starting in 2014. But people who are poorer than that – who are below the poverty level and who are not now eligible for Medicaid in their state (which is way more restrictive than most people imagine) won’t get subsidies.
If their state doesn’t expand Medicaid, they get nothing.
Oklahoma is among the states rejecting the coverage expansion – saying it will leave them on the hook for untold millions of dollars, even though the federal government has promised to pick up the full cost for three years and 90 percent over the long haul.
Jackson described what that means to “tens of thousands of low-income parents.” Continue reading
As part of a collaboration between KOUW and Investigate West, Carol Smith examined the rise of pediatric multiple sclerosis in the Pacific Northwest, a region that already has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
Hard numbers are difficult to come by because the diagnosis is so complicated, but Smith writes that “current estimates suggest that between 18,000 and 25,000 children nationally either have MS, or have experienced symptoms suggestive of MS – some as young as age 5.”
Doctors aren’t sure what’s driving the apparent increase. It’s likely partly from improved diagnostic techniques and increasing awareness among pediatricians that MS can occur early in life. But some also think that the growing onslaught of chemical exposures in the environment may be making immune systems more vulnerable to whatever triggers the illness.
And the pivotal role adolescence could have in the shaping of a lifetime’s susceptibility to MS makes studying young MS sufferers a particularly critical task — a task which Smith explores further in a follow-up piece.
Dental coverage might not have grabbed top billing in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but the law does contain provisions that promise to extend dental care to millions of poor and uninsured children as well as to expand the nation’s safety net clinics and oral health infrastructure.
What will happen to those initiatives if Republicans make substantial gains on Nov. 6?
Mary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.
If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That was the question asked of a panel of experts gathered for the American Public Health Association annual meeting.
“Healthcare could change from night to day in the next three weeks depending on changes in the Senate and presidency,” public health dentist Myron Allukian Jr. said at the meeting, covered by Donna Domino for DrBicuspid.com under the headline “APHA Analyzes Healthcare Reform’s Impact on Dentistry.”
Panelists weighed in on what could be at stake, Domino reports:
The ACA’s pediatric dental care component “is projected to provide care to 3 million children by 2018,” said Herb Schultz, a regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Continue reading