Press Release

August 17, 2011
Senator wants to make sure there are no more Deamonte Drivers

DISTRICT HEIGHTS, MD — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today visited Kool Smiles’ clinic in District Heights to thank Kool Smiles, members of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition and the Deamonte Driver Dental Project for their work in ensuring that Maryland children have access to dental care.  The Senator met with Maryland parents and children who are receiving dental care and he also urged parents to make sure their children receive dental check-ups as the new school year begins.

“Good dental care is part of overall health care and I am so pleased that Maryland has become a national leader in ensuring that children have access to dental care,” said Senator Cardin.  “Dental disease cannot heal without intervention, and, as we discovered in the death of 12 year-old Deamonte Driver, tooth decay can have a tragic outcome.  I made a vow when I first came to the Senate and that was I would do everything possible to prevent another tragic death from something as treatable as tooth decay.”

In 2007, Prince George’s County youngster Deamonte Driver died because of an abscessed tooth.  The 2009 reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) included several of Senator Cardin’s proposals, including a guaranteed dental benefit, a dental education program for parents of newborns and a Department of Health and Human Services website and toll-free number with information about dental coverage and a list of providers.

Maryland has become a national leader in addressing children’s dental health needs. The Pew Center gave Maryland a grade of “A” in its most recent report entitled “State of Dental Health.” The report found that Maryland was the only state in the nation to reach seven of the eight policy benchmarks for good dental care for children.  Maryland provides dental services to 42 percent of its Medicaid enrollees ages 1 to 18.  Between 2005 and 2009, the number of children aged 4-20 enrolled for any period of time in Medicaid increased from 35.8 percent to 55.2 percent.

“Since the untimely death of Deamonte Driver, the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC) has worked diligently with key state and federal legislators and partners to address children’s lack of access to oral health care. To put forward strategies to meet this urgent and critical issue, MDAC developed the Maryland Oral Health Plan, a statewide blueprint to improve oral health and ultimately overall health of children and adults in Maryland.  To make these efforts successful, we need and welcome your involvement,” said Katrina Holt, chair of the Maryland Oral Health Plan.

As part of Maryland’s Healthy Smiles Dental Program, Kool Smiles has helped to improve access to dental care.  Kool Smiles has eight offices throughout the state and plans to continue opening additional offices in underserved neighborhoods. To-date, Kool Smiles has provided a dental home to tens-of-thousands of families who previously had little or no access to a dentist.

“Kool Smiles is proud to partner with Senator Cardin, the Deamonte Driver Project and Maryland Dental Action Committee to ensure we expand access to dental care for Maryland’s underserved communities” said Dr. Priya Grewal, Regional Dental Director for Kool Smiles. “We’re excited to join Senator Cardin and these wonderful agencies to encourage parents across Maryland to bring their children to their dentist as school begins.”