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CA Dental Hygienists call on Legislature to tackle epidemic of oral disease among children, seniors & other groups

GLENDALE, Calif., March 1 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Responding to a recent report about the epidemic of tooth decay among the state's children, the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA) today urged the legislature and other policy makers to adopt measures to address the epidemic of oral disease among children, seniors and other underserved populations throughout California.

Specifically, CDHA called on lawmakers to both support legislation the association is sponsoring and embrace an array of recommendations proposed by the Oakland-based non-profit Dental Health Foundation (DHF), which earlier this month released its report on the dreadful state of children's oral health.

"The foundation's report is shocking in that it revealed how California has remained frozen in time for the past decade," said Lin Sarfaraz, CDHA's president. "We've seen virtually no improvement in addressing the severe problem of dental disease throughout our state."

 

According to DHF's recent report:

-- Tooth decay remains a significant problem, especially among children. By third grade it affects almost two-thirds of the children in California.

-- 28 percent -- some 750,000 of elementary school children -- have untreated tooth decay.

-- 4 percent -- approximately 138,000 -- need urgent dental care because of pain or infection.

-- The oral health of California's children is substantially worse than national objectives. Of 25 states surveyed, only Arkansas ranked below California in kids' dental health.

The study, along with the fact millions of Californians possess no dental health insurance, demonstrates the need for substantive new measures.

Along these lines, CDHA applauded the California State Assembly for passing Assembly Bill 1334 (Salinas), which seeks to free up specially trained dental hygienists so they can better meet the needs of such underserved populations as seniors, low- income families and children.

"The Legislature needs to make dental health a top public health priority," said Sarfaraz. "Our organization is doing all it can to help accomplish that goal, which is why passing AB 1334 is so critical."

The bill, now awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate, would remove a prescription requirement necessary for Registered Dental Hygienists in Alternative Practice (RDHAP's), which is a professional category for dental hygienists with advanced training that allows them to practice autonomously in certain situations.

That requirement has proven to be a major barrier in two critical ways. First, RDHAP's are trained to provide dental hygiene services to individuals who don't have access to a dentist; having a dentist is a prerequisite for receiving a prescription in the first place. Secondly, dentists sometimes refuse to write prescriptions for their patient to see an RDHAP.

"It is scandalous that the California Dental Association continues to protect its dental monopoly at the expense of those who need care the most," said Sarfaraz. "AB 1334 is necessary to expand critical access to care for millions of Californians."

The push for AB 1334 is in keeping with CDHA's 20-year history as the official voice of the dental hygiene profession to expand access to care. Historically, CDHA has supported legislation and other public policies intended to provide greater autonomy and the independence necessary for dental hygienists to provide care to those who need it most -- ethnic minorities, children, seniors and low-income populations.

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The California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA) is the authoritative voice of the state's dental hygiene profession. While registered dental hygienists have worked in the state for nearly a century, CDHA was established 20 years ago when two regional associations merged to form a unified professional group. CDHA represents thousands of dental hygienists throughout the state and is dedicated to expanding opportunities for the profession and access to care for all Californians.

 

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