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Dental School Participates in Statewide Advocacy Day to Support Denti-Cal

Special Care Clinic patient Sascha Bittner testified about her struggles to find dental care.

June  11, 2009

Responding to the possible elimination of Denti-Cal funding, the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry hosted a press conference announcing the release of the Oral Health Access Council's Eliminating Medi-Cal Adult Dental: Costs & Consequences, a report detailing the consequences of the budget cuts.

According to OHAC, more than 80,000 low-income San Francisco County residents and at least 2.8 million adults in California stand to lose access to dental health services on July 1 due to the California State Legislature's decision to eliminate adult Denti-Cal, the Medi-Cal dental service benefits known as Denti-Cal. The dental school is an active member of OHAC.

The report shows that while Denti-Cal's elimination would result in only a minor reduction in state outlays, it would cause the loss of $134.5 million of federal matching funds, substitute more expensive services for less expensive treatments and preventive services, and exacerbate the problems of the safety net by placing more pressure on community clinics and emergency rooms.

The speakers at the press conference put a human face on these numbers. "Nightmarish" and "painful" were the words Sascha Bittner, past chair of the California Council on Developmental Disabilities and a patient at the dental school's Special Care Clinic, used to describe her previous dental care experience. Living with cerebral palsy, "it was almost impossible to find a dentist who was prepared to work with somebody with my disability who could also accept Medi-Cal coverage." She put off seeing a dentist for a long time. Fortunately, she learned about the services offered by the Dugoni School of Dentistry. The Special Care Clinic was able to help where nobody else could, and today, her teeth and gums are much healthier. "Without [Denti-Cal coverage] and the expert services of the Special Care Clinic... I don't know what I would do for my dental care."

Dr. Paul Glassman

Dr. Paul Glassman testifies about the need for continued Denti-Cal funding.

Adult Denti-Cal coverage includes diagnostic and preventive dental services, emergency treatment for control of pain and infection, fillings and tooth extractions, root canal treatments, and prosthetic appliances.

"I strongly encourage the Legislature to reconsider cuts to adult dental health services for low-income people," said Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Dean of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at University of the Pacific. "The amount of savings in dollars is minimal; the amount of suffering for the poor will be enormous."

In San Francisco County, approximately 84,975 adults stand to lose their dental benefits. However, the impact will go beyond the oral health of local residents. According to the report, San Francisco County stands to lose 114 jobs, $5,506,242 in lost wages and $13,828,571 in lost economic activity from just the elimination of the adult Denti-Cal program.

"These cuts and the resulting loss of Medi-Cal dollars will mean that many of our community dental clinics may not be able to sustain their dental programs and will have to reduce dental services to other, non-adult Medi-Cal populations, such as children and the developmentally disabled," said Dr. Paul Glassman, director of Community Oral Health at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Eliminating adult Denti-Cal would have significant ramifications statewide, including lower participation by dentists in Denti-Cal and fewer children receiving oral health services. Ultimately, it would create significant oral health and medical problems in pregnant women, as well as problems for low-income, disabled and elderly adults, according to Dr. Glassman.

Glassman encouraged the public to contact their state representatives and voice support for reinstating adult Denti-Cal coverage. The public may learn more, and find their local representatives, by visiting http://www.oralhealthaccess.org/resources/dentical.cfm

"Oral health status affects overall health and well being, as well as employability and productivity," Glassman said. "Adverse health outcomes associated with poor oral health include avoidable pain and suffering as well as respiratory disease, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Poor oral health also leads to loss of employment and reduced hours of work due to ailments and associated dental visits."

University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry operates clinics in San Francisco, Union City and Stockton, offering quality, affordable dental services to children and adults throughout Northern California. The school provides approximately $500,000 of uncompensated dental care on an annual basis and another $10 million of care at substantially reduced prices to assist the culturally and socio-economically diverse population of the San Francisco Bay Area.

OHAC was launched in 2001 by the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) and the Dental Health Foundation (DHF). With a membership of over 50 organizations representing a diversity of oral health stakeholders, OHAC has become California's most broad-based and unified voice for oral health. For more information about OHAC, go to http://www.oralhealthaccess.org/.

Category Type: General, Community Outreach, Dental Issues and Research, Special Events

Contact:  Office of Public Relations, 415.929.6434, pr@pacific.edu