Tag Archives: dental health

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 and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached 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

Debate over fluoridation rages on: What reporters need to know

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Fluoride opposition sign in Portland, Ore.

Photo by Neal Jennings.

“Portland and its aversion to fluoride reflects Oregon’s unusual politics”

That was the headline that ran over Oregonian writer Jeff Mapes’ May 22 election story.

“In 2011, the board of the Santa Clara Valley [Calif.] Water District voted to begin fluoridating water for about 850,000 customers in and around San Jose. Anti-fluoride activists grumbled but realized they didn’t have the resources to take their fight to the public.

“That’s sure not what happened in Portland, which once again showed that this far northwest corner of the country is willing to go where other parts of the country rarely tread.

“Activists packed the City Council chambers to protest the decision to go ahead with fluoridation and then collected more than 40,000 signatures in a month to place the issue on the ballot. And then, putting together a campaign organization on the fly, they won in a walk – despite being outspent three to one.

“Whether we’re talking about how to fight tooth decay or insisting that someone else pump our gas, Oregonians’ fierce independence and easy access to a Wild West system of direct democracy creates a different civic culture here.”

In the midst of just one of the fluoride debates brewing around the country last fall, Portland’s city council voted 5-0 to approve the fluoridation of the city’s water supply.

Public health advocates cheered. But fluoride opponents swore they would fight on. And they prevailed big time. Continue reading

Dental problems sending more patients to hospitals

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Toothaches have sent increasing numbers of poor and uninsured people to emergency rooms nationwide, according to a federal report.

In 2009, more than 900,000 emergency department visits and nearly 13,000 hospital inpatient stays were related to dental conditions, according to a statistical brief from the U.S. Department of Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Between 2006 and 2009, the incidence of emergency department visits for patients seeking dental treatment increased by 16 percent, rising from 874,000 to 936,432 visits, the report also found.

Dental cavities was the first-listed diagnosis, named in 42 percent of the ED visits. Dental abscesses were identified as the cause of 37 percent of the visits. Dental abscesses were the principal diagnosis for 62 percent of the dental-related inpatient stays, according to the report.

Uninsured people, Medicaid beneficiaries and the young were most likely to make dental-related emergency department visits. The visit rates were far more common in rural areas where dentists are often scarce.

“Patients that are going to the ED [for dental care] are totally different from the general ED population,” Ernest Moy, M.D., a medical officer at AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, told Rob Goszkowski, who wrote about the report for DrBicuspid.com.

“About half of all ED visits are from the elderly, 65 and older, but this is a much, much younger group. The peak age we found in terms of rates of use of the ED [for dental] was 25 to 29, a group that generally doesn’t use the ED that much.”

The findings are to be included the Congressionally mandated National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports which inform legislators about the overall quality of health care in the United States, as well as disparities in care, Moy told DrBicuspid.com.

“Many of our products target state policymakers,” he added. “It helps them understand areas where their state is strong and others where problems need to be addressed.”

The findings come out of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), a group of health care databases developed through federal, state and industry collaboration. The databases represent the combined data collection efforts of state data organizations, hospital associations, private data organizations, and the federal government and are intended as a national information resource of patient-level health care data.

According to the HHS, HCUP includes the largest collection of longitudinal hospital care data in the United States. The databases enable research on a broad range of health policy issues, including cost and quality of health services, medical practice patterns, access to health care programs, and outcomes of treatments at the national, State, and local market levels.

Get more information about HCUP’s Nationwide Emergency Department Sample.

The findings of the federal report echo those contained in another study released by the Pew Center on the States. “A Costly Dental Destination: Hospital Care Means States Pay Dearly” found that financially stressed states have been required to bear the cost of expensive emergency treatment for decay, abscesses and other dental ailments.

The Pew study, which estimated that preventable dental conditions were the primary reason for 830,590 emergency department visits by Americans in 2009, concluded that states could reduce hospital visits, strengthen oral health and reduce their costs by making modest investments to improve access to preventive care.

The philanthropy attributed the increase in hospital visits to the difficulty that disadvantaged people face in getting preventive care from dentists, noting that in 2009, 56 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children did not receive dental care — not even a routine exam.

“The fact that so many Americans go to hospitals for dental care shows the delivery system is failing,” said Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign.

“The care provided in an ER is much more expensive, and it generally doesn’t solve dental problems. Most hospital ERs are not staffed with dentists and the medical personnel who work there are not trained to treat the underlying problems of patients with untreated dental issues.”

Battles over water fluoridation spread across the country

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

As the election returns rolled in, armies of reporters across the country went to work exploring the fate of candidates in local state and national races.

Annie Calovich of The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle had the task of exploring the fate of fluoride.

Mary OttoMary 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 mary@healthjournalism.org.

The city’s hotly contested fluoride initiative, backed by local doctors and dentists, but strongly opposed by anti-fluoride activists, went down to defeat on Nov 6. Voters in city of Wichita rejected fluoridated water as they did in 1964 and 1978.

All over the country, jurisdictions are fighting over fluoride. In September, the city council in Portland, Ore., voted to fluoridate city drinking water in an effort to reduce tooth decay. In August, Milwaukee reduced the level of fluoride in its water after a city alderman launched a campaign to completely eliminate it. A year ago, in a decision that also had implications in Nov. 6 elections, Pinellas County, Fla., commissioners voted to stop adding fluoride to drinking water (more about that in a minute.)

Public health officials and state and local dental groups stand up for community fluoridation, which has been hailed by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century. For more than 65 years, communities across the United States have been supplementing naturally occurring fluoride in water supplies to promote oral health. At what are considered optimum levels, numerous studies have shown fluoride reduces cavities.

But too much fluoride can be a bad thing, public health officials have acknowledged. Consumption at excess levels may cause fluorosis and skeletal deformities, research has found. Continue reading

Election could affect ACA’s expansion of dental care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

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 OttoMary 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 mary@healthjournalism.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

Chain hit with suit alleging it illegally owns dental clinics

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

A class-action lawsuit, accusing one of America’s largest corporate dental chains of illegally owning dental practices and of deceiving patients, has been filed.

The Center for Public Integrity’s David Heath reported on the suitas part of his continuing coverage of Aspen Dental.

Mary OttoMary 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 mary@healthjournalism.org.

In June, “Dollars and Dentists,” a joint investigation led by CPI and PBS Frontline took a long look at rapidly expanding corporate dental chains, and probed the question of whether the profit motive built into their business model leads to overtreatment of patients.

The program joined a growing body of related inquiries, by the press and state and federal agencies and legislators. In May, Sydney Freedberg of Bloomberg took a detailed look at the model under the headline “Dental Abuse Seen Driven By Public Investments.”

Months of coverage by Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA into questionable Medicaid billing at corporate-owned All Smiles Dental Centers helped spur lawsuits by the state attorney general. Continue reading