Access to Affordable Oral Care for Underserved Populations
Steve Adubato and Dennis Wilson, President & CEO, Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut, discuss the issue of accessibility and affordability of oral health care and dental benefits for underserved populations in New Jersey. They also talk about the correlation between oral health and overall health, and ways dentists are able to identify a number of health concerns during routine assessments and treatments.
"We're pleased to be joined by our friend Dennis Wilson, President and CEO, Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut. Good to see you Dennis. Good to see you Steve. A couple things. You were saying that there was a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts? That's right. They did a study. What was it about, and why does it matter, in terms of oral health? The Pew Charitable Trusts... and they do just some great research and some great work, both philanthropic and otherwise, but for the past several years, they've assigned letter grades based on their research, in terms of how each state fares relative to its treatments of children from an oral health perspective. You know, how well are our kids being treated? Unfortunately, New Jersey got a F letter grade. An F? An F. And we're in the company of Wyoming in Hawaii in that basement. Why did we get such a low grade? We got such a low grade... and usually it's explainable, because there's not access, or the number of dentists, or some other factor. Here, it's pure regulation and pure policy. We have the most restrictive policy in the country as it relates to the ability for a dental hygienist to apply varnish to a child's teeth. And in varnish are just a protective shield... Right. ...which are 80% effective in preventing cavities. So it's a policy regulation issue. How do we change it? We've taken some steps... New Jersey has taken some steps to ease the regulation a little bit. Now it's about enacting the right policy, and making sure that the dental community is just aware of what they can do and what the restrictions are. Okay. The other issue I want to talk about, diabetes and oral health. Right. So 18 months ago, Delta Dental went to the Dental Board... the Board of Dentistry in New Jersey. They regulate dentists? They regulate dentists, and they regulate what... how and what Dentists can practice. In other words, what is included under their scope of license? What can they do? So we just asked a simple question, "Can a dentist administer a diabetes test?" Can they, you know, if properly certified and trained, do they have the ability to test for diabetes? Not interpret. Not... Test? Test. What was the answer? Period. The answer was yes. And we found that, one, encouraging and amazing. Because the dentist, we thought, has several more shots - at bats - if you will, with a patient, if a patient is pre-diabetic..."