The Children's Dental Health Project's blog
Oregon dental leader says the system needs to be focused on prevention
Mike Shirtcliff is a dentist who is the CEO of Advantage Dental Plan, which provides dental coverage to 195,000 Oregon Health Plan members in 35 counties. In the coming months, millions of additional children are expected to secure dental coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Although this is good news, many challenges remain. CDHP recently interviewed Shirtcliff about the challenges he sees in his state or Oregon. This is Part I of that interview:
When it comes to oral health, there are two Americas. One has good access to dental care, but the other struggles to access care. How do you see our dental care system?
Nearly everyone has had at least one cavity, but most families have the financial and personal resources to access dental care and manage their dental disease. Our dental care system works pretty well for about 65 percent of the population. But it doesn’t work for the 35 to 40 percent of the people who don’t have the access, money or the behaviors required for good oral health.
The traditional approach to dentistry isn’t working for everyone. There are many excellent dentists out there, but we cannot think we’re going to solve this problem from our dental offices. We have to reach people long before they arrive at dental offices or community clinics.
How do we address the unmet dental needs that exist?
We have to start early, and the dental office is not the place to start. We need to get into the communities and raise awareness. We have to look at women of child-bearing age because their attitudes and behaviors will determine the oral health their children have as they grow up.
We need to change our own mindset. We have to move beyond the surgical-restorative paradigm — the notion that we can drill and fill our way out of this problem. Instead, we have to get ahead of these problems by focusing on preventive practices.
NOTE: The 2nd part of this interview was posted on Friday, November 29.
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