Vt. senator addresses U.S. dental challenges

Vermont is making progress in its efforts to improve access to affordable dental care, but more must be done across the U.S. to address its oral health crisis, according to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

In a June 1 press conference at the site of a soon-to-open dental clinic in Springfield, VT, Sen. Sanders noted that more than 130 million Americans do not have dental insurance, according to a press release issued by the senator's office. In addition, a quarter of U.S. adults age 65 or older are edentulous, and some 17 million low-income children do not see a dentist each year, the senator noted.

Sen. Sanders lauded Vermont's progress: Over the last six years, six new federally qualified health center dental clinics have opened in the state, which means 10 such clinics now serve more than 25,000 Vermonters.

Sen. Sanders is drafting legislation that would do the following:

  • Expand comprehensive dental coverage to millions of Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Affairs.
  • Increase access for dental services by increasing funding for community health centers, school-based clinics, and mobile clinics.
  • Encourage states to increase reimbursement rates and lower the administrative challenges with Medicaid to attract providers.
  • Address the underlying shortage of providers by expanding the National Health Services Corps scholarship program for oral health professionals, creating an oral health provider loan program, and integrating oral health into overall health by providing oral health education to nonoral health providers.
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