Ya know when you’re doing the Hokey Pokey and ya get to the end when you put your whole body in? You don’t just leave your lips, teeth, tongue and gums outside the Hokey Pokey circle, do you? No. Because they’re as much a part of your whole body as your right elbow, foot or hand. (And, frankly, just as fun to shake all about).
If you’ve followed HCFA for a while now, you know that we don’t mess with oral health disparities (though we’re not above comparing them to catchy children’s songs) and that we strongly believe that oral health is overall health.
Oral health disparities are one of the biggest cost drivers in the American health care system. Our current health care system treats the mouth as separate from the rest of the body but, in fact, oral health is linked to all sorts of costly whole body health issues. If more were done to treat illness when it starts in the mouth and provide quality dental care to people before more costly care is needed, our state and national health care systems would see serious savings.
This week, our work to address oral health disparities in Massachusetts was recognized by the DentaQuest Foundation as part of their “20 States for Oral Health 2014 Initiative.” Calling them a “silent epidemic” across our state and nation, DentaQuest has made meaningful investments in order to address oral health disparities across the country. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, nearly 5 million children went without regular dental checkups in 2008 because of financial limitations, and 33.3 million Americans live in an area with a shortage of dental professionals. The multi-year Oral Health 2014 Initiative aims to eliminate such disparities by supporting organizations who are building community partnerships. HCFA was granted $100,000 by The Foundation to continue our current advocacy work aimed at bolstering essential dental benefits for the most vulnerable residents of our state and strengthening the overall dental delivery system in MA.
We are grateful for this honor and to partner with an organization that will support us as we push for legislation that will better integrate our health care system so that oral health is viewed as part of overall health.
And that’s what it’s all about!