WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today joined U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-7), Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker at a press conference to kick off National Children’s Dental Health Month. National Children’s Dental Health Month is a campaign sponsored by the American Dental Association to focus efforts on improving the oral health status of all children. The event also commemorated the five-year anniversary of the death of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old child from Prince George’s County who died from an abscessed tooth.
“Deamonte Driver’s story is a tragic example of how important oral health is to overall health,” said Senator Cardin, whose provision creating a guaranteed dental benefit was included in the 2009 reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). “Our health care system failed Deamonte, so I made a vow to do all in my power to ensure that children have access to dental care. No child should ever again have to suffer from something as treatable as tooth decay.”
“Deamonte Driver died, in the greatest nation on Earth, for want of a dental procedure that cost mere pennies compared to the potential we lost in his passing,” said Congressman Cummings. “He died because his mother was unable to find a single dentist who could perform a simple, critical preventive procedure for the payment offered by Medicaid. We must not allow him to have died in vain. We must continue to work to fix the dental health inequalities that exist in our country. We can do better, and we must, for Deamonte.”
The event also highlighted the collaborative partnerships of the Prince George’s County Health Department with the Deamonte Driver Dental Project, Prince George’s County Head Start and the Howard University College of Dentistry.
“The Deamonte Driver Dental Project has fostered collaborative partnerships to address one of the most preventable childhood problems — poor dental health,” said Betty Thomas, the Project Director of the Deamonte Driver Dental Project. “The project has made tremendous gains in increasing access to available dentistry for some of the most vulnerable children in Prince George’s County.”