Monday, January 24, 2005

Hispanics are suffering a disproportionate level of oral health problems,

Quinn touts dental care screening in schools

January 23, 2005

BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter

As she watched her sons get free dental checkups Saturday, Sara Garcia said why she thinks many low-income Hispanics often don't go to the dentist.

"It's very expensive," said Garcia, who lives in Chicago but grew up in Ecuador. "It should be free, like in Ecuador.''

Low-income Mexican Americans have the highest incidence of untreated tooth decay in the country, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. surgeon general. Nearly 50 percent of their tooth problems go untreated. For Mexican-American children, that figure reaches 70 percent.

Yet only one-third of Illinois dentists accept Medicaid, largely because the reimbursements are so low.

On Saturday, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn visited the Health & Fitness Expo at Navy Pier to call attention to the problem and to tout a new law that mandates Illinois schoolchildren be screened for dental problems.

The lieutenant governor said the problem is particularly acute among Hispanics because many don't have dental insurance. He plans to push the state to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to dentists.

'We need better prevention'

The new law that went into effect Jan. 1 requires all children in public and private schools to have dental screenings in kindergarten, second and sixth grades. Parents have to present proof to schools that their children have seen a dentist.

"We need better prevention," said Quinn, noting that toothaches are among the main reasons students stay home from school. "If kids are missing school because of a toothache, they are not learning."

At a booth at the fair run by Sonrisas, a low-cost dental plan geared to Hispanics, families such as Garcia's were given free dental screenings Saturday.

"Hispanics are suffering a disproportionate level of oral health problems," said Chuck Dushman, president of Sonrisas.

Quinn said that the surgeon general found tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease -- five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.

And bad teeth can cause children to smile less, damaging their self-esteem, Quinn said.

Socialized dentistry for immigrants next it will be for illegal aliens.....oh wait we already have that!

No wonder California has budgetary problems and the Governator is limiting the Denti-Cal budget for this next fiscal year!

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