On August 18, Northeast Delta Dental had the honor of hosting the Axios Expert Voices roundtable at the Waumbec Mill in Manchester to discuss the current state of health care access in New Hampshire. Delta Dental Institute is holding roundtables across the country, in partnership with Axios, a national news media outlet. The roundtable discussion was led by Adriel Bettelheim, Axios Senior Health Care Editor, and included important voices of local leaders and Delta Dental Institute Executive Director, Vivian Vasallo.
The Delta Dental Institute advances the oral health of all Americans, working with Delta Dental companies and other national partners. The Institute engages in and supports oral health research, community outreach, and advocacy, helping people to understand the importance of oral health to overall health and elevating oral health in the nation’s broader health care conversation.
In opening our discussion, I spotlighted the significant challenges the dental community is currently facing, including workforce shortages and increased costs. Chair of Delta Dental of New Hampshire, David Staples, DDS, and I were roundtable participants. Our Vice President of Provider Network & Clinical Strategies, Joe Errante, DDS, also attended.
The roundtable gave local leaders across health care, business, and nonprofit sectors opportunities to talk about the current state of health care access in New Hampshire, look closely at the barriers preventing access to quality health care in our state, and discuss how to make health care available to more people.
This discussion was timely, because the New Hampshire state legislature recently signed adult Medicaid dental benefit legislation into law, the product of a 25-year, bi-partisan effort that included our industry and business. This impacts nearly 85,000 Medicaid beneficiaries who will finally have access to comprehensive oral health care that will improve health outcomes, reduce emergency room visits, and save taxpayer dollars. Next year, the demand for trained dentists and dental auxiliary staff in New Hampshire will be greater than ever. We applaud efforts at the state level to support the existing workforce and expand scholarship opportunities—for example, NH SB 446 and NH SB 144—that will also help dental professionals.
Investing in programs that address the shortages of dentists and dental auxiliary staff has long been a giving priority for our philanthropy. We give to local dental hygiene programs and fund scholarship programs for dental hygienists and assistants. We encourage students to consider careers in dentistry. We support scholarship programs at two schools of dental medicine and contribute to educational loan repayment programs for dental graduates ready to practice in New Hampshire and other Northern New England states.
Increasing access to oral health care to improve health outcomes has no one easy fix. There are roles for schools of dental medicine, practicing dentists, and state and community leaders to play in removing roadblocks. We will continue to support initiatives addressing dental professional workforce shortages and partner with those who see this as a health care priority.
For more on this topic: Tom Raffio & Vivian Vasallo: Now that Medicaid includes dental the real work begins | Op-eds | unionleader.com