Learn great tips and tricks from our top contributor, Captain Smiles. We've got answers and info to help you maintain healthy dental health at Spirit Dental!

Will dental therapists gain acceptance in California?

Dental therapists receive specialized training that allow them to administer local anesthesia, perform x-rays, exams, fill cavities, pull teeth and even perform root canals. With nearly 17 millions children in the country currently lacking basic dental care dental therapists are expected to help fill the existing gap in dental care and coverage.

The majority of the children and their families do not have California dental insurance. They tend to live in areas without enough dentists or they simply can't find members of the dental community who accept Medicaid. Problems accessing dentists in California could grow dramatically in 2014, when millions more children are expected to get dental insurance under the (ACA) Affordable Care Act.

The (ADA) American Dental Association argues that dental therapists aren't adequately trained to perform the major dental work that has typically been performed by fully licensed and trained dentists. Dental lobbies in California are arguing that high school graduates with a few years of training could end up performing delicate procedures with permanent and irreversible consequences if done incorrectly.

The Children's Dental Campaign for the Pew Center on the States, and other research and advocacy groups counter that concerns about insufficient training and substandard quality are completely unfounded and are just an anticipated reaction from dental association groups whose main purpose is to protect the incomes and livelihoods of existing dentists.

They say that the therapists would be properly trained, educated, and supervised to help close the huge and growing gaps in dental care which are causing an oral health disease epidemic across the country today. Nationwide, nearly 830,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were due to preventable dental problems, according to the center. The amount of money, pain, and suffering saved by eliminating most of those visits not to mention the increase in productivity of those effected could make a real difference in thousands of families and businesses across the country.

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First Annual Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy brings relief to thousands

Thousands of local residents without Arizona dental insurance waited patiently in line at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona to receive free dental care at the first annual Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy.

Nearly fifteen hundred dentists, dental hygienists, dental and lab assistants volunteered to help those who could not afford dental care or Arizona Dental Insurance. The treatments included exams, cleanings, fillings, and extractions.

Many of the attendee's who waited patiently in line had not seen a dentist in years. A combination of a lack of Arizona dental insurance coverage and the cost of dental care makes it difficult for many people to afford.

Many of the children who attended the event had never been exposed to any type of a consistent dental care program. Pediatric dentist Kimberly Sherill said the number of children with dental problems is a growing problem. Sherill was inspired to contribute her expertise to this event after noticing a decline of patient checkups in her own office which reflects the challenges and declines in the overall local economy. 


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Dates set for annual Arkansas Dental Mission of Mercy

The Arkansas Mission of Mercy is an annual two-day free dental clinic sponsored by the Arkansas State Dental Association for those in Arkansas who can't afford dental care or dental insurance. All services are provided free of charge by members of the Arkansas State Dental Association who are assisted by hundreds of volunteers. The 2013 Arkansas Mission of Mercy will be held on May 31 and June 1 at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. 

Since the annual event was started in 2007, over 8,084 patients have been seen in only ten total days. The number of dental procedures performed has been phenomenal: 15,967 extractions of bad teeth, and 7,738 fillings and other restorations. These donated procedures were worth an estimated $4 million.

The event provides dental care for the relief of pain to residents of Arkansas who can't afford dental care and don't have Arkansas dental insurance. Most of the participants are from working families who do not have access to dental care. The majority of these patients might otherwise have no hope of receiving care if it wasn't for the generosity of the sponsors of this annual event.

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Oral health disease runs rampant in Alaskan Native Villages

One of the greatest health care challenges in Alaska is oral health disease among Alaskan Native populations. Children in particular are suffering from oral diseases at epidemic proportions. The saddest part of this story is that most of the disease and suffering can be easily prevented with access to basic dental care. A major roadblock to preventing that suffering is finding dentist's who practice in or are even travel willing to remote area's on America's last frontier.

The leaders of Alaska's Native Villages have partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help deal with oral health issues within their population. The training of local mid-level dental practitioners to help take care of basic dental treatments is a possible solution. Dental Therapists as they are called work under the supervision of dentists and currently provide access to approximately 35,000 Alaskan Natives scattered across remote area's of the frontier.

Prevention through education, diet, and technology are also area's that are under renewed scrutiny by local health authorities. Most of the villages lack access to a fluoridated water supply. That combined with a diet high in soda pop and sugar are major contributors to a high rate of tooth decay. Dental education programs have been put in place at the tribal level to educate children and parents about how they can prevent tooth decay and gum disease through diet, habits, and modified behavior in the home.

Access to needed dental services and Alaska Dental Insurance is not unique to just the frontier area's of the state of Alaska. An estimated ten thousand new dentists are needed nationally of help fill the current access gap that exists in dental care. Over 130 million American's nationwide are without any form of dental insurance and that number continues to rise on a daily basis.

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Free Dental Day in Alabama

Alabama Family Dental participated in sponsoring its fifth annual free dental services day for individuals and families in Mobile, Alabama who do not have Alabama dental insurance and cannot afford dental care.

Nearly 100 people who did not have Alabama dental insurance participated in the event. Three dentists from the clinic, their hygienists, and assistants provided oral exams, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, and extractions at no cost.

Dr. Jennifer Milazzo of Alabama Family Dental was quoted as saying, "We understand that people's lives may be busy and treatment may be expensive, and we just feel like we need to help people who otherwise can't afford it or get it done."

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services over 108 million American's do not have dental insurance and many of those affected are children who are not receiving basic and fundamental dental care at an early age. Increased access to pediatric dental insurance programs has been a major goal of the (ACA) Affordable Care Act.

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Three million more children could have dental insurance by 2018

A recent ADA News story on the potential effects of the (ACA) Affordable Care Act on dentistry stated that an estimated 3 million children will gain dental benefits by 2018 through health insurance exchanges, roughly a 5 percent increase over the number of children with private benefits currently. 

Beyond the exchanges, more children will benefit through employer-sponsored dental benefits with dependent coverage, "although the number is uncertain at this time," the Association said.  

The law includes pediatric dental coverage in a list of essential health benefits to be provided by small and individual group health plans. The ACA does not address coverage for adult dental benefits. However, some states are looking at adult coverage as a potential optional benefit after the ACA-mandated health benefit exchanges are in place.

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3 Simple Health Tips for Feeling Better

While we all know some of the standard practices for staying healthy and feeling good - eat a balanced diet of moderate amounts, wash your hands regularly to avoid germs... here's three other simple tips to stay healthy and feel better more of the time:

Get a good night's sleep.  Not everyone needs 8 hours, but that's a standard. Whatever amount is your 'good' amount, work to get that much every night, consistently.  Some say that the amount of that time slept before midnight is of higher quality. 

Move.  Yep, that's right. Not 'hit the gym for 3 hours' or run a marathon or swim the channel, but just get up and move around regularly.  Walking continues to be regarded as one of the best types of exercise for humans. 

Take care of your teeth.  

Besides the superficial aspects of what having a nice, clean, white smile does for your sense of feeling good, many problems - and pain - can originate with your teeth and in your mouth. Researcher have found that the plaque buildup and gum disease can lead to inflammation, which can lead to heart problems.  Plus, as you age, bad dental health conditions can lead to major problems. 

Get your teeth cleaned regularly with a preventative care package available with Spirit Dental (and other plans) so you can avoid problems in the future. 

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Fluoride helps dental health in adulthood decades later

Fluoridated drinking water and fluoride in over-the-counter and prescription toothpastes are widely credited with the large reduction in dental cavities seen since these products were made available beginning in the early 1950s.

Fluoride is the 13th most common element in Earth's crust, and it is naturally present in high concentrations throughout the United States and elsewhere. Fluoride bonds with the enamel of our teeth which hardens them against the acids produced by bacteria in our mouths that can cause tooth decay.

Studies have confirmed the most effective source of fluoride to be water fluoridation.
Its use in toothpaste and its addition to city water supplies across the United States sparked a controversy 60 years ago, and the dispute continues to this day. In the United Kingdom, and in other European Union countries, fluoride is used to a much lesser extent due to fierce public opposition.

More than 144 million United States residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated tap water, providing an automatic defense against the harmful ingredients that cause such a preventable oral health disease.

Children drinking water with added fluoride helps dental health in adulthood decades later. Your fluoridation exposure at birth is affecting your tooth loss in your 40s and 50s, regardless of what your fluoridation exposure was like when you were 20 and 30 years old.

For children whose adult teeth haven't shown yet, fluoride still improves tooth enamel, the highly mineralized tissue on teeth's surface. Fluoride also helps teeth damaged from the decay process and breaks down bacteria on teeth.

Fluoride varnishes are typically used for patients who don't receive enough fluoride from other sources. Keeping fluoride in the mouth enhances its ability to arrest de-mineralization and promote re-mineralization, and varnishes are better for this purpose than fluoridated drinking water or toothpaste.

Varnish, applied quickly and easily by a dentist, is one of the most concentrated products available commercially. Varnishes that contain sodium fluoride adhere to tooth surfaces when saliva is present, providing an excellent fluoride treatment.

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Links between smoking and gum disease

There has always been a significant link between smoking and gum disease. According to a new study at Ohio State University, smoking causes the body to turn against its own helpful bacteria, leaving smokers more vulnerable to gum disease, and tooth decay. Smokers suffer from a much higher rate of oral disease than the non smoking population. Research shows that cigarette smoke wipes out good bacteria in the mouth making the tissue much more susceptible to attack from bad bacteria. The mouth is an interesting environment full of both good and bad bacteria. The mouth develops what is called a bio-film which plays host to these bacteria. If the good bacteria keep getting wiped the bad tends to thrive and that is where oral health problems begin.

In a recent study researchers at Ohio State University took oral sample of bio-film from 15 smokers and 15 non smokers after a series of annual cleanings. The researchers found that with non smokers disease associated bacteria was largely absent. In contrast the smokers in the group started colonizing harmful pathogens within the first 24 hours. It took much longer for smokers to form a stable microbial community. When it did become established it was much more pathogen rich than the bio-film in the mouth of non smokers. Researchers found that smokers also tend to have more cases of red and swollen gums (gingivitis) because the body is mounting defense against the increased risk of infection. Left untreated this can lead to the irreversible form of bone loss called periodontitis.

Researchers are advising dentists that they need to treat the oral health needs of smokers much more aggressively. It starts with making the patient aware of the need to promote a healthy bio-film in the mouth after cleanings. It should also evolve into more dentists becoming involved in recommending smoking cessation programs. This hasn’t been the role of the dentist in the past but more and more of them are beginning to take an active role.

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Dental exams can be extremely valuable for overall health

Usually, when you think of going to the dentist, you’re thinking about teeth.  Cleaning teeth, maybe there’s a problem with a tooth – a cavity,  a chip, discoloration – maybe you’re thinking about braces or other straightening needs… or the dreaded root canal problems. 

However, did you realize that the dentist may be able to recognize and diagnose numerous other potential problems with your health?

According to Dawn West, DMD, RN with Tuffs University School of Dental Medicine, when you go for a dental checkup you might actually be saving so much more than just your teeth or find out about other oral health related complications, because the mouth is the gateway to your entire organism and there might be several important signs of other diseases existent in there.

Some of the other non-dental related diseases that a dentist can spot include the sexually transmitted diseases (STD), diabetes, heart disease, and even several types of cancerous diseases.

The dentist is basically looking in your mouth for signs of different diseases such as inflammation, bleedings, dry mouth or sores, and damages to the gum line. Some other dentists do actually perform neck and head exams, Blood pressure and even blood sugar or other blood issue tests.

So don’t look at that dentist visit as simply a pain that has to be done every 6 months, think of it as a great check up on your overall health! 

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Over 130 Million Americans are without dental insurance

According to a report released last week by the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging more than 130 million Americans do not have dental insurance and in many cases are unable to pay for the out of pocket cost of paying for a dental check-up. The subcommittee is aware that peoples’ lives are being disrupted by chronic toothaches and gum problems but are unable to find affordable dental care for themselves and their families. The goal of the subcommittee is to come up with a plan to do better and help the dental community do a better job of serving low income families.

Some interesting facts illustrating the national dental crisis:

  • One quarter of all adults in the United States ages 65 and older have lost all their teeth.
  • More than 47 million people live in places where it is difficult to access dental care.
  • In 2009, there were more than 830,000 visits to emergency rooms across the country for preventable dental conditions, a shocking 16 percent increase since 2006.
  •  Inadequate or non-existent dental health maintenance has a profound impact on overall health, including an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and poor birth outcomes.
  •  Many Americans are forced to live with extreme pain because of dental disease.
  • Dental diseases have prevented millions of Americans from getting a job.
  • Medicare doesn’t cover any dental care whatsoever.
  • Thousands of retiree’s are losing their dental insurance at retirement.
  •  One third of all Americans do not have dental coverage.
  • Only 45 percent of Americans age two and older saw a dental provider in the past 12 months.
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Truth About Teeth

This is a common scenario in Kansas for those who don’t have dental insurance. Let’s say one of your teeth starts to crumble and you have to go to a dentist. The cost to have a root canal and a crown can run as high $2000. The dentist is going to want his money at the time of service. What will you do if you don’t have the money?

The simplest solution is to perform an extraction to solve the problem. It costs around $200 and the patient while losing the tooth does begin to feel much better because the infection is out of the body. Another alternative would be to visit a local university that has a school of dentistry.

Many dental schools offer reduced-cost services to patients in need. Don’t expect them to foot all the costs for restorative dental work but they can help reduce costs significantly. Even before you start to experience the pain of a toothache the health of your teeth could be giving you problems that impact your overall health.

The Kansas Health Foundation wants to get that information out in a new public-health campaign to address what it calls a crisis in oral health in Kansas. In a campaign called “Truth About Teeth,” the foundation will use words such as “decay” and “gross” plastered across mouths on billboards and in other ads to get people’s attention and give them some fact about the state’s dental condition.

Some interesting facts about dental care in Kansas:

  • 58% of Kansas third graders have experienced tooth decay
  • Ninety-three counties in Kansas do not have enough dentists to serve their residents, and 13 have no dentists at all.
  • Kansas hospitals reported more than 17,500 visits to emergency rooms for dental-related problems in 2010.
  • Kansas ranks 18th in the United States for total tooth loss among senior citizens.
  • Only 25 percent of Kansas dentists accept patients insured through Medicaid.
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Relief for Sensitive Teeth - New Tooth Technology - Sensitive Teeth

A chemical mix imitating the minerals found in saliva, but at higher concentrations, can be added to toothpaste to plug tiny pores that lead to nerves. The exposed pores lead to nerves, causing pain and sensitive teeth.

Now, a new ingredient in toothpaste, developed by dentists, called Novamin, can dramatically reduce teeth sensitivity. Teeth become sensitive when gum tissue recedes, exposing a tooth's roots. Roots contain small holes or tubules that lead to nerves. Novamin plugs up the holes cutting off contact with nerves and eliminating pain.

It is made from a compound from elements naturally critical for bone and tooth mineralization: calcium, phosphorus, silica and sodium. In their common forms, these elements have very limited value in tooth healthy. But in their rare ionic form, they can make teeth stronger and help eliminate tooth sensitivity.

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Dental X-Rays - XRays Risk - Dental Xrays Concern

A lot of patients are worried about having dental x-rays taken on an annual basis. They are fearful that since they have had medical x-rays taken recently, the additional dental x-rays will cause some sort of a medical problem. First, a complete series of 16-20 dental x-rays emits as much radiation as does one hour in the sun. Most dental offices now offer digital x-rays which produce 1/10 the radiation that the old style x-rays produced. Also, if x-rays are not taken, only about 50% of the tooth structure can be examined for problems. Without the help of x-rays, you are asking your dentist to work with one hand behind his/her back. And without x-rays you will probably have to contend with bigger dental problems when they can be seen by eye.

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Dental Warning Signals - Dental Problems - Gum Disease Warning Signs

Most people don’t think of their mouth as a source of disease. So what if I have bleeding of the gums or I offend because of bad breadth? Both of these conditions are indicators of a disease process and they should be checked by your dentist. In fact, if your dentist or dental hygienist isn’t checking your gums at each of your dental visits;  it’s time to look for a new dentist. The fact is that our mouths contain so many different forms of bacteria that it is literally a launching pad for disease in general. These bacteria will cause bad breadth, sore gums, bleeding when brushing and eventually the loss of teeth.  It is a proven fact that gum disease can provoke heart disease, stroke, diabetes and may worsen osteoporsis. Gum disease is esentially a silent killer. Do not ignore it because more than your teeth may go away because of this disease.


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Bad Breath - What Causes Bad Breath - Halitosis

A common question you hear at most dental office's is – “What causes bad breath?”

Many times the complaint is not from the offender but from a long suffering spouse or family member. There are many causes of bad breath (which we call “halitosis”) – some serious and some not. And while many people have decided to just hold their nose and live with it, the good news is diagnosing and treating bad breath is something that can easily be done.

Here is a list, in no particular order, of the reasons people may be slowly backing up during conversations:

Foods Containing Pungent Oils

Yes – garlic and onions are very healthy, but they also contain oils which may cause an unhealthy reaction to those around you. These odors come from the lungs, last up to 72 hours and can be tough to cover up. Mints, gum and rinses are your best bet – or make sure everyone around you has had the same yummy food as well!

Routine Illnesses

Colds, sore throats, coughs and sinus infections all cause yucky smelling mucus (or snot, depending on your age), to get trapped in our mouths, throats and noses, which causes foul breath until the illness is taken care of. Of course, if you have one of these highly contagious problems you shouldn’t be that close to someone anyway! If a sinus infection, sore throat, cough or cold doesn’t clear up in a few days to a week, you should probably see your physician to make sure things aren’t of a serious nature.

Dry Mouth

A dry mouth lets dead cells accumulate on your gums, tongue and cheeks. And while morning breath is a perfectly normal phenomenon due to lowered salivary activity at night – it shouldn’t last all day. Those who snore, mouth-breath, take certain medications, or even have lasted into middle age are prone to a dry mouth.


Smoking dries out your mouth (see above) and also, tobacco just plain stinks. If lung cancer and heart disease aren’t reason enough to give up the ciggies, maybe a constant foul mouth will help you make that life-saving decision.

Chronic Diseases or Conditions

Many serious diseases such as lung infections, kidney failure, diabetes, cancer, GERD, anorexia, bulimia and others can cause very specific types of halitosis. The good news is that these are on the rare side, but if anything along these lines is suspected, a referral to the appropriate practitioner is in order.

Poor Dental Hygiene and Gum Disease

Ahhh… this is our favorite! Not because we like people to have poor dental hygiene and gum disease, but because these are very common causes of bad breath and we can usually treat them quite easily. But please don’t wait too long! Gum disease, which usually starts with poor brushing and flossing habits as well as a lack of routine dental visits, can do much more than make your mouth stinky.

In just a short period of time, gum disease can advance and eat away at the gums and bone which hold your teeth in place. The result? Loose, unstable teeth which will eventually be lost if not treated. Catching gum disease early is great as treatment is typically conservative. Wait too long and it gets much more difficult and extensive.

Bad breath is not normal! Seeing your dentist and dental hygienist on a routine basis is your best bet for making sure your teeth and gums stay healthy, your smile stays bright, and your breath doesn’t cause others to run in the opposite direction.

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Dental Expense - Gum Disease - Emergency Room Dental Care

Each year, more than 85,000 emergency-room visits are due to gum and periodontal problems, a new study finds. These visits cost more than $33 million a year.

Harvard researchers did the study. They used information from 24 states. It covered visits to hospital emergency rooms in 2006. In that year, 85,036 people visited an ER because of gingivitis, periodontal disease or receding gums. The average cost of this type of ER visit was $456. About 1 in 5 visitors was a child. Two-thirds of visitors had some form of insurance and a family income below $47,000 a year.

Just over half of the visits were for gingivitis. This is the mildest form of gum disease. Another 45% were for the more serious form, periodontal disease. In all, 1,167 people were admitted to the hospital. The average cost of a hospital stay was $15,248.

People with Medicare were more likely to be admitted to the hospital than younger people with private or public health insurance or no insurance. Medicare covers people age 65 and older.

People with certain other significant health conditions were more likely to be admitted to the hospital. The most common of these conditions were high blood pressure, chronic (long-term) lung disease, diabetes and depression.

People with severe or dangerous periodontal conditions also were more likely to be hospitalized. This includes people with abscesses, which are bacterial infections in the gums. Some abscesses can be life-threatening if not treated.

Less than half of American adults visit a dentist at least once a year. People who do not see a dentist regularly are more likely to visit the ER with dental problems.

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Oral Health and Diabetes - Diabetes Information - Dental Diseases

23.6 million people in America have diabetes and over 5 million of them don't even realize that they are diabetic. Another 57 million Americans are in a pre-diabetic state which is even a greater national health concern.

Research has shown a connection between periodontal disease and diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease. Periodontal disease may even be associated with the development of Type 2 diabetes. Periodontal disease also makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugars which can lead to more serious problems when it comes to managing the disease.

The connection between diabetes and oral health is just one example of the relationship between oral health and overall wellness. It also underscores the important role that dental care providers can take in early detection of serious systemic diseases.

The bottom line is if you are not visiting your dentist once every six months for a check up you are putting more than just your oral health at risk.

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Smoking and Tooth loss - Dental Health - Smokers Dental Health

Studies are showing that smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to lose teeth.  

Current smokers were 2.5 times as likely to have lost all of their teeth as people who never smoked. Former smokers were 1.5 times as likely to have lost all of their teeth.

Even people who had quit smoking 30 years ago were at increased risk for tooth loss.

The more cigarettes a day someone smoked, the higher the risk for tooth loss. The highest risk was among current smokers who smoked 25 or more cigarettes a day. It was lower for those who smoked 1 to 14 cigarettes a day.

This pattern held in former smokers, too. Those who had smoked the most cigarettes in the past were almost twice as likely to have lost all of their teeth as those who had smoked the fewest. The time a person had smoked also mattered. Risk of tooth loss was highest for people who had smoked 50 years or more. It was lower for people who had smoked for 35 years or fewer.

Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke also increased the chances of tooth loss. People who had never smoked were 1.22 times as likely to lose teeth if they were exposed 1 to 5 hours a week to someone else's smoke. This went up to 1.37 for people who were exposed for 6 or more hours a week.

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Dental Insurance Crisis - Dental Insurance - Medicaid Advantage Dental Insurance

The national debate on health insurance has dominated the headlines ever since President Obama was elected and made health care reform one of his first mandates. Ignored in all this is the dental insurance crisis. 
Over one hundred million Americans do not have dental insurance and the lack of coverage is leading to such probles as school absense, unemployment, and even death. Experts say that the most common disease among children is chronic dental decay. 
Nationally it is estimated that over 51 million school hours are lost each year because of children with dental problems. It is frustrating because these problems and loss of productivity are completely preventable.

One third of the population of the United States does not have dental insurance. Its a catch 22 situation. The answer of course is to buy dental insurance and the main reason people do not have dental insurance is because they simply can't afford it.

Medicaid only provides dental insurance to low income families in only nine state's. Most dentists in those states refuse to accept it because the payouts are so unreasonably low. There is a dental crisis going on in this country and it is one of the many items that were overlooked during health care reform.

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Jodi Vance was very thorough and helpful in answering my questions and explaining features of the benefits I inquired about.


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