DENTISTS ARE TAKING THE LEAD
Vermont’s dentists are leading the way, working to remove the barriers that keep people from getting care. We’re on a mission to help deliver the quality dental care all Vermonters need. Here’s how:
WE’RE REMOVING BARRIERS TO DENTAL HEALTH IN VERMONT
Tooth Tutor Program
Children with tooth decay are substantially more likely to suffer from dental disease throughout their lives. This program ensures children have access to preventive, restorative and continuous oral healthcare and, since 1993, has expanded from elementary schools to preschool programs and middle/high schools. However, many schools still do not participate and 26,000 eligible kids did not see a dentist in 2013 (Annual EPSDT Participation Report FY 2013 Department of Vermont Health Access).
That’s why the Vermont State Dental Society is working with the state to expand this program to every school to ensure every Vermont child has access to dental care.
The Vermont Department of Health contracts with dental hygienists to provide oral health services and referrals to dentists in about half of its district offices.
To enhance oral health during pregnancy and critically important early childhood years, we’re recommending that Vermont put a public dental health hygienist in every district office to serve WIC recipients, pediatric care offices, childcare centers and schools.
Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs)
CDHCs are community health workers whose training focuses on oral health. They work in underserved rural, urban and Native American communities, bringing more people into the dental health system. CDHCs focus is on oral health education and disease prevention. When disease requires treatment, the CDHC can link patients with dentists who can provide that treatment, and can help obtain other services — such as child care or transportation — that patients may need in order to receive care and keep scheduled appointments. VSDS successfully piloted this program in Vermont in 2013.
To connect more people to dental care and education, VSDS is working to create a CDHC program to more underserved communities in Vermont.
Nursing Home Care
Eighty percent (80%) of nursing home residents face barriers to dental care (American Health Care Association, “LTC Stats: Nursing Facility Operational Characterizes Report,” Sept. 2013 Update, pg.6). A program piloted by the Vermont Department of Health placed a mobile dental chair in a nursing home in Morrisville for residents with mobility issues, dementia or the inability to tolerate a visit to a clinic so that more residents could get the dental care they need where they need it.
Vermont dentists are committed to expanding this program by matching every dollar the State invests — up to $50,000 — in providing mobile dental chairs in nursing homes.
WE’RE INCREASING ACCESS WITH MEANINGFUL REFORM & REAL RESULTS
Strengthen Collaborations between Dentistry and Primary Care
Integrating dental health care and primary medical care will improve Vermonters’ overall health and help lower healthcare costs. Research has shown possible associations between gum disease and other health conditions like heart disease, stroke, premature births and low birth weight, and proven links between gum disease and diabetes.
Vermont dentists are developing continuing education programs that cross train physicians and dentists to ensure better outcomes for patients and lower overall healthcare costs.
Expand Partnerships with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
FQHCs established by Gifford Medical Center and Mountain Health Center are working with private practice dentists in the community who provide care to underserved populations (primarily via Medicaid) in their own practices. This allows the health centers to provide more care to more patients without incurring the expenses of expanding their facilities, purchasing equipment or hiring additional staff.
VSDS will continue to work with FQHCs, the legislature and the state’s congressional delegation in Washington to expand this model throughout Vermont.
Reduce Emergency Room Visits
The use of emergency rooms for non-urgent and preventable dental health conditions is a costly public health problem. Most ERs aren’t staffed or equipped to provide comprehensive dental treatment, making this a costly and ineffective way to treat dental pain. Moving patients out of the ER and into the chair of a community dentist lowers the cost of care, relieves ER wait times for real emergencies and ensures patients receive the right care in the right setting.
Vermont dentists are working with the American Dental Association to fund a comprehensive study to identify the best ways to substantially reduce the use of emergency rooms for non-emergency dental care.
EXPANDING VERMONT’S ORAL HEALTHCARE WORKFORCE
Vermont has maintained a steady number of dentists over the past 10 years. And we are working to ensure that the state will continue to have enough dentists to provide care to all who need it.
Many dentists come to Vermont to receive additional training after completing dental school. The majority of these dental “residents” decide to stay and practice here, making the residency program at University of Vermont/Fletcher Allen Hospital our state’s most effective recruitment tool.
The VSDS recruitment program (funded by the Vermont Department of Health) recruits trained dentists to practice statewide. Vermont dentists have committed to maintaing and expanding this program in 2015.
The University of New England’s College of Dentistry opened in 2013 and already has five Vermonters enrolled. The VSDS is working to expand the number of Vermonters attending the UNE dental school.
Into the future, VSDS dentists will work to expand recruitment efforts, such as loan repayment programs, and remove barriers to the recruitment of dentists to Vermont.
Increasing Expanded Function Dental Assistants
Vermont has a well-established, nationally accredited educational program to train Expanded Function Dental Assistants. There are more than 40 EFDAs currently in Vermont and more are needed to expand capacity statewide.
Vermont dentists will continue working to increase the integration of EFDAs into dental practices.
WE’RE BRINGING DISEASE PREVENTION TO VERMONT COMMUNITIES
Expanding Community Water Fluoridation
Vermont dentists continue to work with the Vermont Department of Health to promote community water fluoridation. Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that is present in all water sources. Water fluoridation is simply the adjustment of fluoride that occurs naturally to a recommended level for preventing tooth decay.
Regardless of their socioeconomic status or the ability to obtain care, everyone receives important dental benefits and disease prevention simply by drinking fluoridated water. There is clear medical consensus that fluoridation is one of the most effective ways to prevent dental disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC even proclaimed it as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
And, it saves money. The average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling. For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs.
The VSDS will continue its work with the state to encourage Vermont communities to participate in water fluoridation programs, for the benefit of all their residents.