Who's Smiling Now? Disparities in American Dental Health

By Dolgin, Janet L. | Fordham Urban Law Journal, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Who's Smiling Now? Disparities in American Dental Health


Dolgin, Janet L., Fordham Urban Law Journal


6. Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2012

The Comprehensive Dental Reform Act, (199) introduced in the 112th Congress by Senator Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in the House, proposes doing what the ACA does not do: ensuring comprehensive dental coverage to a wide group of people, including the elderly and those with low incomes. (200) Title I of the bill details the need for dental coverage: 47 million people have difficulty accessing dental care; 17 million low-income children do not get coverage for dental care; and the Medicaid program is not required to provide dental coverage for adults. (201) The bill described those most likely not to get adequate dental care to include "individuals with low incomes, racial and ethnic minorities, pregnant women, older adults, individuals with special needs, and individuals living in rural communities." (202)

The bill, if passed, would provide dental care for Medicare recipients as well as for adults receiving care through Medicaid, (203) and for those covered by the Veterans Administration. (204) In addition, the bill would create mobile units providing dental care in places where access to dental providers is thin, and it would help fund the training of dental care professionals, including "dental therapists." (206) It would also provide funding to educate emergency room physicians in emergency dental care. (206) The bill provides for funding by imposing a tax of 0.025% on securities transactions. (207) The bill would significantly minimize disparities in dental health in the United States. The bill provides a good model for what needs to be done. However, it has virtually no chance of becoming law--at least not at this time--as it died in committee. (208)

II. TEETH EVEN THE "TOOTH FAIRY" MIGHT ENVY

For people with financial resources, dental care in the United States provides not only for patients' health needs, but also, often, for their aesthetic yearnings. The latter is significant in promoting a culture where people may assess each other's teeth to determine socioeconomic status. Such assessments cross class boundaries. (209) A person's dental condition can signal poverty and low socioeconomic status. For those without teeth or with visibly mangled teeth, social and economic opportunities can be significantly limited. (210) At the other end of the nation's socioeconomic hierarchy, however, teeth can signal wealth. (211) For middle- and upper-class Americans, contemporary dentistry has diverged from its counterpart of a half century ago. (212) The fluoridation of water and routine dental care for middle- and upper-class children have significantly limited the types of problems that once brought many Americans to dentists. But dentistry--once considered a has-been profession--has flourished as Americans with means have become hooked by cosmetic dentistry. (213)

"Americans," reported June Thomas, have become "obsessed with teeth" (214)--a reference not to dental health, but rather to the presumptive importance of dental aesthetics. "A beaming smile," Thomas adds, "is the ultimate testament to American prosperity and self-confidence." (215) The dental profession itself has supported the presumption that one's teeth reflect one's values. This is evident, for instance, in the profession's support for the proposition that dental health is a product of individual responsibility and choice. (216) The condition of a person's teeth allows others to place that person on the nation's socioeconomic hierarchy (217) and to assess his or her moral grit. (218) In short, teeth have become a barometer of class status.

Unsurprisingly, as middle- and upper-class Americans have focused more and more on the aesthetics of teeth, they have become less satisfied with the appearance of their teeth. At the start of the 1990s, 57% of people in the United States were "very satisfied" with the way their teeth looked. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Who's Smiling Now? Disparities in American Dental Health
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.