Millions of people today are unable to get the dental care they need. As a result, cavities, which are highly preventable, are the most common chronic disease of childhood, and one in four adults age 65 and older has lost all of his or her teeth. Untreated oral health conditions can lead to not only tooth loss, pain and infection, but also contribute to an increased risk for serious medical conditions such as diabetes and poor birth outcomes.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Sen. Sanders issued a report outlining the Dental Crisis in America and held hearings in February 2012 and September 2013 on access to and the cost of dental care. He also introduced the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act, S.1522, to address the dental crisis. This legislation, supported by dozens of organizations, extends comprehensive dental health insurance to millions of Americans and creates new places for people to seek care. In addition, it works to expand the number of dentists and dental professionals by investing in education and workforce development and funds new research in the area of oral health. He has also introduced legislation to create a pilot program for the provision of dental care to about 30,000 veterans across the country and allow the VA to provide restorative dental services to all veterans receiving dental care through the VA.
More than one out of four Americans does not have any dental insurance. Traditional Medicare does not cover dental services for seniors, the VA does not cover dental services for our veterans, and states can choose whether their Medicaid programs provide coverage for dental care for low-income adults, meaning that many low income Americans have no dental benefits or are able to access services. Only 20 percent of the nation's dentists provide care to people with Medicaid, making it extremely difficult for many low income families, seniors, and people with disabilities to find a dentist.
One piece of good news: Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) play a critical role in providing cost effective dental care to over 4.3 million Americans, including about 25,000 Vermonters, regardless of their ability to pay. Sen. Sanders is committed to expanding health centers and other options for the delivering high quality dental care at an affordable cost.
Sen. Sanders has said: "When we talk about the health care crisis in America we often ignore a very important aspect of that crisis: that tens of millions of Americans are unable to access affordable dental care and they suffer as a result of that." He is committed, through the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act and other efforts, to improving access to safe and affordable dental care for all Americans.