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 http://www.adha.org.
SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association