eral level, a guaranteed dental benefit was secured in 2009 for children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And in 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Congressman Cummings said he is a proud supporter of this landmark legislation and then highlighted some of the legislation’s provisions to promote children’s dental health. Pediatric dental care is fully covered as an essential health benefit in every insurance package that qualifies for inclusion in health insurance exchanges.1 Standalone dental plans must meet all certification standards that apply to qualified health plans without annual or lifetime limits. The Affordable Care Act also authorizes funding to launch a dental information campaign, to educate new parents and those who live in traditionally underserved areas.

Congressman Cummings observed that just as death is a part of life, “a part of life is death.” Deamonte Driver’s mother, who had been struggling as a result of her son’s death, received training and has become a dental assistant. She works in a dental office and is reminded of her son’s death as she promotes dental health. Cummings mentioned this as a moving example of something positive coming out of the family’s tragic experience.

A large segment of the American public, even the well-educated, lacks basic knowledge about oral health. Parents may be very well-intentioned but not provide good dental care for their children. Congressman Cummings cited a friend, a psychiatrist, who said, “a person could have good parents, but that does not necessarily mean that what that parent does is good for them.” He noted that if parents lack information, and therefore the ability to teach their child about dental health, it is certainly not good for the child. It is critical to teach parents the importance of dental care. To illustrate this point, Congressman Cummings recounted an encounter he had at a hospital. When introduced to a young child about 2 years old, Congressman Cummings noticed that the child’s smile was marred by a little tooth that was completely decayed. When he advised the mother to take the child to a dentist, the mother said that she did not have to because “these teeth are going to fall out anyway.”

Congressman Cummings suggested that people’s behavior is motivated by two things, to enjoy pleasure or to avoid pain. He stated that parents who truly love their children would do anything to make sure that their child avoids pain. But if they do not know how to avoid dental pain, there is a problem. In his view, the goal is to have a nation of knowledgeable parents that are equipped to protect their children.


1Under the Affordable Care Act, state health insurance exchanges are being created as marketplaces where individuals and employees of small businesses can shop for a range of health insurance choices.

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