Satcher urges U.S. states to increase dental access options

David Satcher, MD, former U.S. surgeon general and assistant secretary for health, is urging states to take steps to increase access to dental care for poor and minority children, according to a statement issued by America's Wire.

"As states wrangle with whether or not to pursue Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act [ACA], they should look carefully at the serious implications for oral health, especially for poor and minority children if Medicaid services are not expanded as originally envisioned under the ACA," Dr. Satcher wrote, noting that 37% of African-American children and 41% of Hispanic children have untreated dental caries, compared with 25% of white children.

States should explore all options that could help expand access to care, including allowing midlevel dental providers to practice, he added.

"They are trained to provide routine services, freeing up dentists to attend to more complicated procedures," he wrote. "These practitioners already work in Alaska and Minnesota. And in just a number of years, they have been able to expand access in Alaska alone to an additional 35,000 people who could not get regular care in their own communities."

Satcher's commentary is available free of charge from America's Wire, an independent media outlet that provides stories and commentaries reporting on structural bias. America's Wire is operated by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and is made possible through a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

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