ADHA Emphasizes Access to Care Issues After Recent Tragedy

Mar 05, 2007, 00:00 ET from American Dental Hygienists' Association

    CHICAGO, March 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Washington Post, on
 Wednesday, February 28, 2007, reported that a twelve-year-old boy in the
 Washington D.C. area, Deamonte Driver, had died of complications resulting
 from an untreated dental abscess, after bacteria from the untreated tooth
 had spread to his brain. Deamonte had undergone two brain surgeries and
 more than six weeks of hospital care. This story highlights what the
 Surgeon General called in 2000, a "silent epidemic" of dental disease that
 affects our most vulnerable citizens -- poor children, the elderly, and
 many members of racial and ethnic minority groups.
     In the greater Washington D.C. area, patients currently do not have
 direct access to dental hygienists because of restrictive public health
 policies. In many other states patients are allowed direct access to dental
 hygienists for preventive procedures, which has been an effective model in
 increasing access to care.
     The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), along with many
 other oral health care organizations, has made finding a solution to
 expanding access to care a top priority in recent years. In 2004 ADHA
 created the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner (ADHP), after a
 near-unanimous vote at its 81st annual session, as a practice model
 designed to have greater reach and impact upon the underserved populations
 in the U.S. By lowering restrictive barriers currently obstructing direct
 preventive care to the public and increasing basic restorative services,
 the ADHP will allow dental hygienists to be a more effective piece of the
 entire dental team.
     "This is a sad, sad story," says Margaret Lappan Green, RDH, MS, ADHA
 president. "Access to care is at crisis level in this country, and
 Deamonte's death emphasizes that even more. Hopefully the Advanced Dental
 Hygiene Practitioner will significantly improve the level of access to care
 in this country, but until its completion, and even beyond, the dental
 community must look for new and creative ways to reach these underserved
 populations and maximize the potential of current technologies, such as
 teledentdistry, that are already in place. "
     Dental hygienists are prevention specialists who are uniquely qualified
 and positioned to meet the oral health needs of the underserved. Dental
 hygienists can detect signs and symptoms of many life-threatening diseases,
 educate patients to develop oral health care treatment plans, and serve as
 an invaluable pipeline for referring those who need the care of a dentist.
     ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional
 interests of more than 120,000 dental hygienists across the country. Dental
 hygienists are preventive oral health professionals, licensed in dental
 hygiene, who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services that
 support total health through the promotion of optimal oral health. For more
 information about ADHA, dental hygiene or the link between oral health and
 general health, visit ADHA at

SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association