Sunday, January 27, 2013

problem in access to dental care

At our journal club this month, we discussed this article Giving Voice to a Silent Epidemic in Oral Health by Dr. Robert Collins. Dr. Collins (who is a professor here at Penn) talks about the lack of dental care in low socioeconomic or minority populations in rural areas. He also proposes solutions to solve this problem including more dental schools and the controversial dental auxiliaries.

I saw a dentist for regular check-up’s growing up. I didn’t know that people didn’t go to the dentist. For us it was like going to get your haircut or getting your regular eye check-ups. But I also spent the majority of my childhood in Korea where we have universal healthcare.

The thought of someone going to ER for a toothache is unfathomable. From my experience, the ER is not a pleasant place to be waiting for hours, especially when you are in awful pain.

Some disturbing facts:

In 2000, Florida spent $88 million in emergency dental care. It averages out to $765/dental ER visit. On average, a dental cleaning costs $150.

Often times dental ER visits are returns. In Minnesota in 2012, 20% of ER dental patients returned to the ER. Because the ER often has no dentists (or dental X-ray machines) the solution is a temporary patch-up of painkillers or extractions.

120329_DentistsSee the full infographic here at Frugal Dad

As dentists, we are not only filling cavities and pulling teeth but also taking charge of the oral health of our communities. We emphasized that it’s important to go beyond the technical aspects of being a dentist (someone said “what differentiates from barbers?” Barbers used to do teeth extractions too) and think about the impact of our profession on the community.

Some thoughts:
What would it take for you to practice in an underserved area? Especially if you are not from that area?
(We discussed long-term student loan repayment programs and training programs offering job placement help at the end, similar to some nursing programs.)

29 comments:

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  5. Great conversation topic. You are correct, rural areas are very underserved. And more people are going to want dental care in 2014 because of the Affordable Care Act. The details are still a little squishy, but regulated pediatric coverage is considered part of the health reform bill beginning January 1. Every health and/or dental insurance company will be required to honor coverage. This could drive demand. Here are more details: http://bit.ly/YKgW9J

    Your student loan repayment idea might be just the ticket.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the insightful comment! In talking with other dental students, many of us are worried about student debt- in pursuing residency and careers beyond, burden of student debt is a huge factor. I agree that loan forgiveness programs for dental students could alleviate this problem.

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