4.5 million kids can't afford dental care

July 24, 2011 at 10:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- About 4.5 million U.S. children did not receive needed dental care in 2008 because their families could not afford it, an Institute of Medicine report says.

The majority of the U.S. population routinely obtains oral healthcare in traditional dental practice settings, but dental care eludes many -- including racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, pregnant women, poor people and rural populations, the report says.

The report concludes that the separation of oral healthcare from overall healthcare is a factor in limiting access to dental care for many Americans.

However, with proper training, non-dental healthcare professionals, such as nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants and physicians, could screen for oral diseases and deliver preventive care services, the report says.

Instead of having each profession develop its own set of competencies, the committee recommends that the Health Resources and Services Administration convene key stakeholders to develop a core set of competencies that could apply to many non-dental health professions, the report says.

Over time, these competencies should be incorporated into certification testing and accreditation requirements to ensure adoption by health professional schools.

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