“Lack of Dental Care is Costing a Bundle”

A recent article in The Fiscal Times can be added to the long list of evidence that decreasing access to dental care only drives up costs in the long run:

When parents don’t take their children for routine checkups and diagnostic tests, the risks of tooth decay and hospitalization rise. “The use of ambulatory surgery for dental problems is among the top five reasons for [same-day] surgery in kids under five,” says Dr. James J. Crall, child advocate at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

The article points out that a 2004 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics also supports these findings. When researchers incorporated medical and dental costs, they found that the younger the child’s age when they first got their checkup and dental visit, the lower the overall cost over the entire preschool year.

This increase in costs when early treatment is denied is not limited to children. Oral health services provided to adults through MassHealth reduce costs to the state by preventing costly emergency services and decreasing the severity of other chronic diseases. A Kaiser study found the 2002 elimination of dental services merely shifted the cost of care to other parts of the health care system.

As more and more research emerges demonstrating the ineffectiveness of eliminating programs such as MassHealth aduled dental benefits, we must increase the urgency with which we deliver this message to decision makers in the Commonwealth. For more information about speaking up for oral health, please visit www.hcfama.org/oralhealth.
-Christine Keeves

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