Partners for accessible dental care launch website

Posted March 29, 2012, at 3:44 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A new website, DentalAccessForME.com, is highlighting the challenges Mainers currently face when it comes to obtaining dental care.

In a series of stories filmed and produced in Maine, residents talk candidly about their personal trials and challenges due to lack of access to dental care. One mother tells why the condition of her teeth makes her too self-conscious to smile. Another wife explains why her husband was so desperate that he pulled his own teeth.

The video “Dental Access: Hidden Faces, Hidden Stories” highlights the problem from the viewpoint of families and providers. In addition, the website highlights the increased costs of emergency room care for dental pain, one of the most costly treatments for under- and unserved Maine people. A 2000 report by the U.S. Surgeon General called dental disease a “silent epidemic.” Ten years later, a report by the Pew Center on the States found that two-thirds of the states are failing to ensure that disadvantaged children get the dental health care they need. Among the issues addressed, the report describes the severe costs of this preventable disease: lost school time, challenges learning, impaired nutrition and health, worsened job prospects in adulthood.

Facts specific to Maine include:

• 55 percent of MaineCare children do not have a dentist (DHHS 2011).

• 32.3 percent of Mainers do not have a dentist (BRFSS).

• Maine has the fewest dentists per capita of any New England state.

• 15 of 16 Maine counties have a federally designated dental shortage area (Federal Data, 2012)

• Nationally, dental disease is 5 times more common than childhood asthma and is the most prevalent childhood disease.

• 30-40 percent of Maine third-graders have untreated cavities.

• 40 percent of Maine dentists are over age 55 and will likely retire in the next 10 years, compounding the shortage of dentists and lack of care.

DentalAccessForME.com, created by a growing group of partners concerned about Maine people having access to dental care, is working to pass legislation around LD 1105 which would create a new midlevel provider to increase opportunities for Maine people to have accessible dental care.

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