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Intersection - Missouri Health Talks on Access to Oral Healthcare

Dr. John Dane, left, wears glasses, a dark blue suit and a white and blue-checkered shirt. Gary Harbison, right, has a full beard and wears a dark blue shirt and suit.
Rebecca Smith

This week on Intersection we bring you a special on oral health from the new KBIA project, Missouri Health Talks. Health reporter Rebecca Smith spoke with Dr. John Dane, the current State Dental Director, and Gary Harbison, the Executive Director for the Missouri Coalition for Oral Health.

They cover the Missouri Oral Health Plan, which runs from 2015 to 2020, advances that have been made in oral health policy and struggles Missourians still face when it comes to accessing quality, affordable dental care.

You will also hear conversations gathered by Smith in June at the 6th Annual MOMOM, or Missouri Mission of Mercy, in Joplin. This yearly, two-day dental clinic put on by the Missouri Dental Association provides free dental care for anyone willing to wait in line. This year approximately 1,200 people were served and more than $800,000 worth of care was provided.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

On the Current State of Missouri's Oral Health

Gary Harbison: We know that we still have many many challenges. We know that overall, it's fair to say that the oral health of Missouri is poor. We have a lot of areas where access to oral health care is still a tremendous challenge - affordability is a big part of that, but in many rural communities in the state, people simply do not have a local provider. 

On the Current Oral Health Gaps in Missouri

Dr. John Dane: As of July 2017, we have 94 counties out of 115 that are designated dental professional health shortage areas. We actually have nine counties in the state of Missouri that there's not a dentist who's licensed in that county with an office address in that county. 

On Emergency Room Spending on Non-Traumatic Dental Care

Gary: The department of Health and Senior Services has done… a really great little study looking at expenditures for non-traumatic dental in emergency rooms. I believe it is still around $17 million a year that is being expended on non-traumatic dental care services in emergency rooms. By and large, that $17 million is not taking care of the underlying condition.

Dr. Dane: The $17 million spent - that was in 2014. There were 54,000 ED visits in the state of Missouri that year for non-traumatic dental care.

On Oral Cancer in Missouri

Dr. Dane: The ADA's policy, as well as public health dentistry's policy, is that if you have a solid, well-placed silver filling, don't take it out.

We have seen a spike now of cancers that are associated with HPV infection. You may also hear from your dentist sometime in the near future, that they are recommending the HPV vaccinations for your kids because of that situation. 

Segments of this show were produced by Elena Rivera. 

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
Sara Shahriari was the assistant news director at KBIA-FM, and she holds a master's degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. Sara hosted and was executive producer of the PRNDI award-winning weekly public affairs talk show Intersection. She also worked with many of KBIA’s talented student reporters and teaches an advanced radio reporting lab. She previously worked as a freelance journalist in Bolivia for six years, where she contributed print, radio and multimedia stories to outlets including Al Jazeera America, Bloomberg News, the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor, Deutsche Welle and Indian Country Today. Sara’s work has focused on mental health, civic issues, women’s and children’s rights, policies affecting indigenous peoples and their lands and the environment. While earning her MA at the Missouri School of Journalism, Sara produced the weekly Spanish-language radio show Radio Adelante. Her work with the KBIA team has been recognized with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and PRNDI, among others, and she is a two-time recipient of funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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