MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders will be at Montpelier High School tomorrow morning at 10:30 to discuss what he's calling a "dental crisis."
Sanders is the chairman of the subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.
On Feb. 29, the committee issued a report about dental care, or lack thereof, in the United States.
According to the report, more than 47 million Americans live where it is difficult to even get dental care.
Most dentists setup shop in the suburbs, the report said, while most people live in either rural or urban areas.
Approximately 17 million children received no dental care in 2009.
Those least likely to have access to dental care are minority groups and poor people.
And so when dental problems become too severe to bear, folks end up in the emergency room, which is much more costly than proper preventive care.
But many people simple can't afford to see a dentist regularly.
The report said that more dentists are retiring then are graduating from dental school each year.
Nationally, nearly 9,500 new dental providers are needed to meet current demand for dental care.
Aside from encouraging more people to become dentists, the report recommends expanding the workforce by adding so-called allied dental providers or dental therapists to a dental office team.
Dental therapists are practicing in Minnesota and in more than 50 countries around the world. Research shows that private dental practices can serve more patients by hiring a dental therapist.
The report also recommends expanding Federally Qualified Health Centers, which provide health care to everyone in a community regardless of their ability to pay.
There are more than 1,100 FQHCs nationally, and in 2009, 3.5 million people received dental care through the health center system.
A major expansion of FQHCs is part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, yet the report encourages greater focus on reaching those who are still without access to dental care.
Dental care is about more than having a pretty smile, good teeth are an important part of living healthy.
"The fact is that for certain individuals, oral health treatment may greatly bring down their medical care costs," Director of Family Health Centers of Marshfield, Inc. said. That's Marshfield, Wisconsin.
And some people die from untreated dental problems.
Feb. 25, 2012 marked the five-year anniversary of the death of Deamonte Driver of Maryland. Twelve-year-old Driver died from an infected tooth.
Driver's Medicaid coverage had lapsed, and even with insurance, according to the report, he and his mother struggled unsuccessfully for months to find a dentist who would see him.