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With all the discussion and debate over health care reform, lost in all this is that many Americans lack access to dental services because they do not have any dental benefits and cannot afford to see a dentist. Now comes a report that states that poor dental health is keeping many Americans from becoming employed and is actually affecting the nation's productivity. Here is what the article has to say:
With five broken teeth, three cavities and a painful gum abscess spreading to her sinuses, Patty Kennedy knew she had to get in line early for a free dental clinic held last month in San Jose, Calif.
The 53-year-old woman from Modesto, nearly 100 miles away, was counting on the care to repair not only her smile and her worsening health -- but also her chances of getting a job.
“I’d love to work at a grocery store as a cashier. I’d even go for bagger,” said Kennedy, who camped out overnight at the CDA Cares clinic sponsored by the California Dental Association Foundation. “At this point, I’d do whatever.”
But like many of the more than 2,200 people who showed up for the 5:30 a.m. clinic on May 18 and 19, Kennedy knew that bad teeth translate into poor employment prospects, even for the best workers.
“I really don’t smile a lot,” said Kennedy, whose husband, Lucas, also 53, lost his job five years ago when California’s construction economy tanked. “I know that when you have a job, you want to have a pleasant attitude and you've got to smile and be friendly.”
Lack of access to dental care is a particular problem in California, where budget woes virtually eliminated access to the state’s Denti-Cal program in 2009, leaving an estimated 3 million poor, disabled and elderly people without oral health services. In 2012, CDA events provided about $2.8 million in free care to nearly 4,000 people.
But barriers to dental services are a problem nationwide, with more than 47 million people in the U.S. living in places with difficult access to care, according to the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA. Low-income adults are almost twice as likely as those with higher incomes to have no dental care in the previous year, according to a 2008 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which take effect in 2014, guarantee dental care for children, but not for adults. And without such care, adults already struggling to get by find that obvious dental problems – teeth that are missing, discolored, broken or badly crooked -- make their situation even harder, said Susan Hyde, a dentist and population scientist at the University of California at San Francisco.
In America, most people – including employers – make instant judgments based on appearance, including someone’s smile and teeth.
“If you want to portray someone as being wicked, they have missing front teeth. If they’re ignorant, they have buck teeth,” she said. “Even from a very early age, we associate how one presents their oral health with all kinds of biases that reflect some of the social biases that we have.”
Those views can prevent potential employers from recognizing potential assets, said Lindsey Robinson, a dentist and current president of the California Dental Association.
“If they have a job that requires them to interact socially with the public, it’s almost impossible for them to get that job,” she said. “Customer service jobs, good entry-level jobs, they’re not available to people who lack the basic ability to smile, to function, to chew properly.”
The problem is partly based on appearance, but also on the health effects of poor dental care, which have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Acute dental conditions cost nearly two days of work per year per 100 people in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds. Even employed adults lose more than 164 million hours of work because of oral health problems or dental visits.
“When you’re sick and you don’t feel good, you can’t do anything,” said Kennedy, who had suffered with no care for five years. “Your appearance and your countenance suffer.”
The problem is also embarrassing, she added.
That makes anyone less likely to have the energy to job-hunt -- and to be less likely to land the position, Robinson said. But research also shows that when people are offered dental care, their chances of employment go up.
Hyde co-authored a 2006 study in which researchers offered interventions to nearly 400 welfare recipients with severe dental problems. Thirty percent had horribly receding gums, 85 percent were missing one or more teeth, 84 percent had one or more teeth decaying in their mouths, Hyde recalled. “One man told me, ‘I get my wife to chew my food for me first.'”
But when they were offered dental services, the patients flourished, she said. Those who completed their dental treatment were twice as likely to get jobs or move off welfare than those who didn’t finish treatment, the study showed.
In the course of my work with low income Medicare beneficiaries, most of them have bad teeth. This is from a lifetime of not receiving dental care and poor oral habits (as well as smoking). No doubt poor dental health does affect productivity and does prevent many from being able to work or work to the best of their ability. The fact that I can offer Medicare Advantage plans that include dental benefits is a strong selling point and many people are very happy to finally have some dental benefits.
Dental health and care has often been overlooked when discussing health care. But the link between dental health and overall health is clear and it is time to stop pretending that dental health is the orphan step child to health care reform. In many states (including Ohio), their Medicaid program has skimpy dental benefits and none at all for adults. In many states the Medicaid reimbursement rates for dentists are so ridiculously low that even finding a dentist that will accept Medicaid is a struggle. In many counties there is not one dentist that will accept Medicaid. In other counties there are no dentists accepting new Medicaid patients.
Being able to guarantee dental benefits for everyone is an inexpensive and moch more cost effective means of improving the health and productivity of the people of the United States. The fact that many Medicare Advantage plans offer dental benefits (and the United Health Care AARP PDP offers dental benefits) is a strong selling point. Even the nominal premium for a full dental beneft ($33 per month) is affordable to many people on Medicare.
What is needed is to find some way to bring comprehensive dental benefits within reach of every American citizen so no one has to be turned away from a job because of bad teeth. Or that people who qualify for Medicaid can have ready access to quality dental care. Perhaps being able to get dental care might make it possible for some to get off Medicaid and be more self supporting.
Posted by golfinsailor
Everything that you state is quite truthful, but were you aware that even with dental insurance, the cost of going to a dentist is practically prohibited?
any mayor work that any destist does costs a fortune. they are so overpriced is ridiculous. In two years I have spent 7000 in three implants, and this year I needed two crowns another 1700.00 and periodontic treatment and that is over 800.00 and that is with my insurance.
So, I really don't know what is the solution on this one.