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Floridians share stories of struggles in 'dental health crisis'

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Friday, October 13, 2023   

Listing dental care as the top unmet health-care need in Florida, one group is helping Floridians share their stories and challenges in getting that care, hoping to raise awareness about the issue.

This online forum features a collection of stories from around the state, including a Broward County woman who said she repeatedly got infections and was on antibiotics while pregnant because she couldn't afford dental care.

Karen Bonsignori, director of communications for the American Children's Campaign, said her group and Floridians for Dental Access are using the stories to dive deeper into the data behind Florida's oral-health problems.

"There's a mother who has struggled for 10 years to get her children seen by a dentist. That is absolutely unacceptable," she said. "There's another story of a man whose teeth are rotting out of his head."

Bonsinori said all these stories are collected, analyzed and shared, in-person or online, to educate others about what she called "Florida's oral health crisis." In 2020, fewer than half of Medicaid beneficiaries younger than age 20 received preventive dental care, including annual screenings. In Florida, about two-thirds of Medicaid-enrolled children missed out on these services.

To add your story or read more about others, the website is floridiansfordentalaccess.org.

According to a workforce survey by the Florida Department of Health, nearly eight in 10 Florida dentists said they did not accept Medicaid patients. Bonsinori said she believes many people are not fully aware of the magnitude of the health-care issue the state is facing.

"I think anyone who thinks that Florida has a handle on solving the oral health crisis is really not in touch with the experiences of everyday Floridians," she said.

She added that their primary concern is the high cost of dental care, closely followed by limited access to services. A majority of dentists operate within private practices, with fewer than 5% working in publicly funded dental offices and community clinics, according to the state's dental-health workforce survey.

Disclosure: Floridians for Dental Access contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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