Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
The Journal Record, March 31, 2014
State dental care nothing to smile about
A trip to the dentist can mean little when it’s a semiannual cleaning and exam. It can mean a lot more when it’s a root canal. In either case, the important part is going, an act taken for granted by many.
But there are Oklahomans who haven’t seen a dentist in a long time. Among the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the territories with available data, Oklahoma ranked last for dental visits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 56.7 percent of adults had been to the dentist in the past year, compared to a national average of 68.5 percent.
Gov. Brad Henry in 2007 organized a task force to study the state’s oral health status and provide recommendations. The task force reported in 2009 that less than 20 percent of Medicaid-covered children had seen a dentist for preventive care in the preceding year. It also acknowledged that insurance coverage for dental care, while lagging behind medical insurance, had risen. Despite that, the ratio of children without dental coverage compared to those without health coverage was 2.6 to 1.
Twenty-one states have oral health programs that share $5.9 million per year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help strengthen their efforts. Oklahoma is not among them.
Fifty-eight percent of Oklahoma’s third-graders have had some kind of tooth decay, and 22.6 percent of Oklahoma children that age have untreated tooth decay.
It’s no better for Oklahoma seniors. Among those 65 and older, 54 percent have lost at least six teeth to decay, and 26.8 percent have lost all their teeth for the same reason.
Not-for-profit dental insurer Delta Dental of Oklahoma has a foundation that provides grants to free and low-cost dental clinics and programs to help provide care. It also engages in a lot of public awareness and award scholarships to dental students who intend to practice in Oklahoma.
On Wednesday, Aspen Dental’s MouthMobile, a 42-foot dental office on wheels, will be in Oklahoma providing free dental care to people identified by Neighborhood Services Organization. And on Saturday, four Oklahoma Aspen Dental offices will offer free care to those in need who make an appointment.
Those are terrific programs, but the state needs more of those, and must heed the recommendations of the task force. Access to care, access to insurance and public education will lead to a healthier Oklahoma.
The Oklahoman, March 31, 2014
Oklahoma students pay the price for educators’ stunt