Commentary: Dental treatment is wellbeing treatment. Mainers need to have entry to it.

For in excess of a calendar year, the pandemic has demonstrated us how community health procedures can build a domino outcome, influencing families, faculties and the overall economic system. We have also seen how great general public wellness policy, these types of as prioritizing the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, has saved lives, gotten individuals back to function and allowed us to securely hug our cherished types all over again. But for decades, we have been observing the damaging impacts of an region of public health that has not been prioritized right here in Maine, and which is dental treatment.

Dr. Douglas Huntley inspects a young patient’s mouth throughout a regime checkup in Skowhegan in 2017. L.D. 1501 would extend Maine’s Faculty Oral Health Method to provide all educational facilities in the state by 2025, employing federal funding to protect the fees of providing preventive dental services in educational institutions. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel, File

Maine ranks second to very last in the country in the proportion of children insured by Medicaid who get any preventive dental treatment. Even between kids who have consistent personal dental rewards, much too quite a few go with out treatment.

There are a lot of motives for this prolonged-standing trouble. Maine suffers from a lack of dentists. In massive regions of the state, it can just take a number of several hours to vacation to a dental office. In some parts of the state, no dental workplaces are accepting new clients with MaineCare.

Dental disorder plagues so lots of folks in Maine that we often forget about it is a illness we know how to avert and address. It is induced by a bacterial infection, not by inconsistent dental hygiene practices. After the disease system commences, you are unable to brush your way out of it, and it will sooner or later affect your general health and fitness and very well-getting. Brushing and flossing are crucial resources to reduce the disorder, but other people, like fluoride varnish and sealants, are available only as a result of a hygienist or dentist.

The Legislature has a marvelous opportunity this session to increase oral wellbeing in Maine with a number of critical charges. For case in point, L.D. 996 adds a comprehensive dental benefit to MaineCare for adults, covering the total range of preventive and restorative care that folks have to have to keep away from dental emergencies and protect their oral overall health.

Another vital piece of this coverage puzzle is L.D. 1501, An Act To Protect Oral Wellness for Kids in Maine. This bill directs the point out to increase its School Oral Health and fitness System to serve all schools in the condition by 2025 and to successfully use federal Medicaid funding to help cover the expenditures of delivering preventive dental companies in colleges. It would also restore an oral health coordinator placement inside the Maine Center for Disease Handle and Avoidance to provide general public wellness management to fulfill our people’s oral health and fitness demands.

For several families, insurmountable limitations existed to accessing dental care even prior to the pandemic, and now those people obstacles are even worse. A lot of dental places of work book checkups six months in advance, and people typically really don’t have the flexibility to acquire time off from function for a dental checkup. Trustworthy transportation can also be a problem, significantly in rural Maine.

The College Oral Well being Plan presents a way for the dental occupation and our state to actively attain additional youngsters. Just waiting around for extra patients to clearly show up to dental places of work is permitting way too numerous youngsters down. It is time for us to meet them midway. If we are seriously critical about resolving this challenge, we require a viable faculty application that serves youngsters the place they by now are.

The state’s College Oral Wellness Program has performed this part for decades in Maine, but it has been hamstrung by funding and staffing cuts. At the moment, only about a 3rd of universities in the condition are served. We have the possibility to extend this method to make sure that no child suffers from preventable dental condition.

When we sacrifice our children’s oral overall health to conserve a several pennies, we pay out a substantially worse price, and we pay it above and above again. Just as we are defeating this pandemic with good public policy, we can make oral overall health care available to all Maine family members as a result of steps that tackle the root (canal) of the trouble. L.D. 1501 features a obvious route ahead.

This is a winnable fight, and the answers are in the arms of the Legislature this session. Oral health is health and fitness, and dental treatment is well being care.

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