dental care

Lawmakers are being asked to consider two competing proposals surrounding access to dental care. One would allow mid-level practitioners to be licensed, while the other would provide incentives to would-be dentists.

A coalition called Floridians for Dental Access wants the Florida Legislature to allow licenses for dental therapists.

Therapists have more training than a dental hygienist and less training than a dentist. They can perform services like filling cavities and pulling teeth.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Pinellas County Department of Health is helping students start the new school year with a smile thanks to their no cost dental clinic.

The Florida Dental Association Foundation will host its fourth Florida Mission of Mercy event on March 9-10 at the Lee Civic Center in Fort Myers. During the event dentists will provide an estimated 2,000 people with relief from the pain and infection of untreated dental disease — all at no cost to the patients.

Dental care will be delivered on a first-come, first-served basis from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no pre-registration necessary. Services provided will include cleanings, fillings, extractions, pediatric dentistry and limited root canal therapy. We're joined by Dr. Phillip Kraver, one of the dentists providing care at this weekend's events, to learn more.

Dentists graduate with a lot of student loan debt. That means it's hard for them to set up in rural areas where people might not have much money -- or health insurance.

A statewide assessment of dental health needs found nearly a third of older adults in Florida aren't getting the early dental care they need. That lack of care is behind an expanded dental clinic in Lee County relying on volunteer health professionals to treat those most in need of dental care. 

A one-day, free dental clinic for military veterans will open its doors Friday to provide urgent care from root canals to tooth fillings. And there are no empty chairs.

That’s because the second annual “Stars, Stripes and Smiles” event, organized by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and the West Pasco Dental Association, has already filled its allotted 75 slots. But veterans’ names are still being taken for a waiting list.

At the Marshfield Clinic dental center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., hygienist Karen Eslinger is getting her room ready. It's all quite routine — covering the chair's headrest with plastic, opening instruments, wiping down trays.

But then she starts getting creative.

Flossing has quietly lost its place among recommendations for daily health, at least as prescribed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are issued every five years by the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.

That could be because there's scant evidence that flossing does much to keep teeth and gums healthy.

Younger people may not realize it, but seniors know well that Medicare doesn't cover all health-related needs and expenses. Many Medicare beneficiaries have some kind of supplemental insurance that partly covers the gaps. But those policies mainly provide financial protection for the patient's share of costs for regular doctor visits and hospital care covered by Medicare. Until 2006, Medicare didn't cover prescription drugs.

Some things that Medicare doesn't cover:

Scott Signs Key Health Bills, Vetoes Dental Measure

Apr 15, 2016
Office of the Governor

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a series of health-care bills, including a measure that supporters say will help shield patients from getting hit with surprise tabs after going to hospital emergency rooms.

Scott Signs Bills On Body Cameras, Dental Care

Mar 28, 2016
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed 34 bills into law, including a measure that will require standards for the use of police body cameras and a plan that could lead to revamping dental care in the Medicaid program.

Daylina Miller / WUSF

Children who get health insurance through Medicaid go to the dentist about half as often as children in Florida who have private insurance, according to a new study out from the American Dental Association and the Health Policy Institute.

The Florida Department of Health has closed a loophole in the state’s healthcare programs for low income families. The Department has made a deal to provide dental services to foster care children in eight counties.

Bill: Entice Dentists to Underserved Areas

Feb 3, 2015
U.S. Navy

A Senate Republican on Monday filed a proposal that would create a program to provide financial help to dentists who work in areas of Florida that lack adequate dental care.

The proposal (SB 606), filed by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would provide money that could be used for such things as repaying dental-school loans and investing in property and facilities.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

 Over two days at the Florida State Fairgrounds, volunteers organized by the Florida Dental Association provided more than $1 million in free services.

When volunteers got there to open the doors on the first day at 5 a.m., there were more than 800 people in line, according to association president Terry Buckenheimer. By the end of the event, volunteers served 1,660 patients.

The number of Floridians treated in hospital emergency departments for tooth problems that could have been treated in a dental office or clinic -- or better yet, prevented altogether -- rose to more than 139,000 in 2012, according to a study released Wednesday.

The total was up by 8,000 over the year before, the Florida Public Health Institute reported.

Child receiving a mouth exam
Dave Buchwald

Florida is the worst state in the country at providing dental care for children insured through Medicaid, the Orlando Sentinel reports. According to a study by the Pew Children's Dental Campaign, three-fourths of children who are covered by Florida Medicaid did not get regular dental care in 2011. Experts say the problem is reimbursements that are so low that only about 15 percent of Florida’s dentists will take Medicaid patients.  

Miami Herald

Nova Southeastern University offers a dental clinic that welcomes patients who have very specialized needs: people with mental illness or a physical disability, such as cerebral palsy, that makes an ordinary dentist’s office hard to navigate, the Miami Herald reports. More than half a million Florida residents who have mental or physical disabilities went without dental care last year, the state found.