America’s dental health falling behind

Let’s face it — America’s dental health is failing.

While we are making progress providing dental care to children, wide swaths of adults lack dental insurance and thus forego all but emergency care.

Senior citizens on Medicare are the most needy adult population, and they are among the most lacking in means.

A recent post in Salon explains the problem.

As the nation’s largest insurer, Medicare plays an important role in shaping health care coverage norms. Medicare does not cover dental care. Today, according to government estimates, 70 percent of seniors lack dental coverage.

Overall, it is estimated that more than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance and one in four non-elderly citizens have untreated tooth decay, according to Salon.

Obamacare was helpful to some, but it was no panacea.

The ACA provided for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, though not all states accepted the offer of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage. Even in the states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, strict limits on oral health care remain for most low- and moderate-income Americans.

The problem with poor dental hygiene go far beyond cosmetics. Poor dental health leads to a wide variety of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These maladies end up taxing our health care system far more, in many cases, than treating our teeth properly.

Policymakers are coming around to that conclusion, but more slowly than many of us believe is prudent.