Press Release

March 2, 2007

Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) today introduced the Children's Dental Health Improvement Act of 2007 (S. 739) to improve the access to and delivery of dental care to uninsured children through a number of steps, including allowing states flexibility to cover dental services through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP).

In speeches yesterday on the Senate Floor, both senators called attention to the story of a 12-year-old Maryland boy, Deamonte Driver, who died last Saturday after an infection in one of his teeth spread to his brain.

“We know that dental health is directly linked to overall health,” said Sen. Cardin. “Unfortunately, we know that children in disadvantaged communities are far less likely to receive adequate dental care. Just last week, the death of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver from a brain infection brought on by a tooth abscess brought this painful reality to light. We must act now to make real improvements to government insurance programs such as SCHIP and Medicaid if we hope to prevent this kind of inexcusable tragedy.”

“A little over a month ago, this young man came home complaining of a tooth ache. Today he is dead. What began as a simple tooth ache developed into an abscessed tooth and, eventually, a brain infection that killed him. Although his family attempted to access care, they could not acquire meaningful oral health services either when they were on the Medicaid program or while they were uninsured,” said Sen. Bingaman. “We should never let this happen again.”

The Children's Dental Health Improvement Act of 2007 authorizes $40 million for community health centers and public health departments to expand dental services by hiring additional dental health professionals to serve low-income children.

The legislation also does the following:

Provides $50 million in financial incentives and planning grants to states to improve their Medicaid payments rates to encourage more dentists to participate in the program.

Provides the Indian Health Service (IHS) with the authority to offer multi-year retention bonuses to dental providers offering services through the IHS and tribal programs.

Authorizes the Oral Health Initiative to coordinate public dental health services and provides $25 million to improve the oral health of low-income people served by the public and private sector.