WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee, spoke on the floor of the United States Senate Thursday recognizing February as National Children’s Dental Health Month and the 9th anniversary of the death of Deamonte Driver. Senator Cardin has been a leading advocate for children’s dental health care, authoring provisions that guaranteed children access to dental coverage first through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and later expanded in the Affordable Care Act.
“Since 1981, National Children’s Dental Health Month has given us an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of children’s dental health, recognize the significant strides we have made and the work that remains to be done, and renew our commitment to ensuring all children in our country have access to affordable and comprehensive dental services.
“Despite being largely preventable, tooth decay is the single most common chronic health condition among children and adolescents in the United States. Left untreated, it can not only destroy a child’s teeth, but also has a debilitating impact on his or her health and quality of life. On this day in 2007, we saw that a lack of access to affordable pediatric dental care can also be deadly when a young Marylander named Deamonte Driver died from a brain infection he contracted because he could not afford to see a dentist.
“Nine years after Deamonte’s tragic and preventable death, we have made progress in ensuring that children across America can live up to their full potential by expanding access to care. I am very proud that Maryland has been recognized as a national leader in pediatric dental health coverage. In a 2011 Pew Center report, The State of Children’s Dental Health, Maryland earned an ‘A’ and was the only state to meet seven of eight policy benchmarks for addressing children’s dental health needs.
“More work still remains to be done. According to a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, three out of four children covered by Medicaid did not receive all required dental services over a recent two-year period, with one in four children failing to see a dentist at all. Today we must recommit ourselves to working to ensure that all children can receive the care they deserve.”