As educators, perhaps you know that poor children are entitled by law to dental care, but do you know they often can’t find a dentist willing to see them? On Tuesday, June 26, at 10:00pm, WGBY will air Frontline: Dentists and Dollars, which investigates a broken safety net where more than 100 million Americans can’t afford a visit to the dentist, its shocking consequences and solutions to fix it.
One in four children have untreated tooth decay, now the most common chronic illness among school-aged children with adults faring no better. Part of the problem is that many people don’t have dental insurance and can’t afford steep out-of-pocket costs for care. Medicare offers no dental coverage unless it’s connected to a medical procedure, and while poor children are covered by Medicaid, many dentists’ offices turn them away because the profit margins are so low. In 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation data, 19 million children had no dental insurance — more than twice the number who went without health insurance.
Frontline also looks at the practices of two private companies offering dental care for those in need, Kool Smiles and Aspen Dental, and the questions raised about whether such companies are taking advantage of some young patients and offering financing that may be exploiting poor families.
We hope you’ll watch this Frontline documentary to learn more about the state of our children’s dental health care.