Cavities Are Catching: MassHealth Adult Dental Cuts Endanger Children

As we leave the winter and flu season behind, we thought we were done worrying about catching an illness from anyone, at least for a few months. However, according to a recent New York Times article, dental cavities can be contagious, with people “catching cavities” from another person all the time.

Cavities actually are caused by bacteria on a person’s teeth. The bacteria feed off remaining particles of food. As a by-product, the bacteria produce acid that destroys teeth, resulting in cavities. Simply put, dental decay is a disease. In fact, it is the most common chronic childhood disease, and can interfere with basic life activities, such as eating, speaking, learning and working.

This cavity causing bacteria can be transferred from person to person, and according to the New York Times, most frequently is transferred to children from their caregivers.

Just as a cold virus can be passed from one person to the next, so can these cavity-causing bacteria. One of the most common is Streptococcus mutans. Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to it, and studies have shown that most pick it up from their caregivers — for example, when a mother tastes a child’s food to make sure it’s not too hot, said Dr. Margaret Mitchell, a dentist in Chicago.

This article is a good reminder of the far-reaching impacts of the cuts to MassHealth adult dental benefits. The elimination of coverage for restorative services, including fillings for cavities, has left the 700,000 adults that relied on MassHealth for essential dental services with barriers to care and the potential for untreated dental infections. Untreated, dental infections not only cause unnecessary pain, they also can lead to more serious systemic infections that require emergent medical care and seriously threaten one’s health.

These cuts don’t just hurt adults. As this article points out, dental disease can easily be transmitted between loved ones and family members. In addition, a growing body of research confirms that eliminating dental benefits for adults decreases the likelihood that children will see a dentist. The elimination of MassHealth adult dental benefits places entire families at greater risk for dental infection while simultaneously decreasing access to medically necessary treatment.

Oral health is overall health and dental insurance is health insurance. The MassHealth adult dental program plays a critical role in providing access to oral health care for both children and adults. With the FY2012 budget process underway, restoring MassHealth Adult dental should be a priority, in an effort to improve the health of families across the Commonwealth.
-Lydia Mitts

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6 Responses to Cavities Are Catching: MassHealth Adult Dental Cuts Endanger Children

  1. Feliza Funtanilla says:

    Dental coverage should be looked into seriously. I wonder what the stats are for open heart surgery patients, who had endocarditis and mitral valve repairs due to lack of dental care access. And yet, these surgeries are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

  2. Dental coverage is a joke in most cases. Fortunately there are a few good plans remaining.

  3. To protect teeth, we have to get this bacteria off the teeth. We all know about brushing and flossing which are must. Mouthwashes help. But here are two other things to remember, and they both have to do with saliva production. Chewing sugarless gum causes you to excrete saliva. Agents in the saliva breakdown the bacteria. Also, drink lots of fluids. The more water in the body, the easier it is for you to produce saliva.

  4. Pingback: MA Kids Dental Programs Move to the Head of the Class! |

  5. Pingback: Dental Exam, X-Rays, and Cleaning - Deals2Inbox

  6. Pingback: Some wise dental health practicesOh Susana!

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