About the Article

Public policy has often overlooked oral health care, even in a political era marked by expanding access to otherwise comprehensive health care. Medicare and Medicaid offer dental coverage so limited and mired in administrative uncertainty that these programs fail to address the urgent need of the elder community. The most effective remedy for this problem is not in expanding governmental mandates, but in innovating the oral health field itself. This Note surveys how elders access oral care today and explores the barriers that exist to those services. This Note also examines the effects of Medicare and Medicaid policies that have contributed to the decline in the oral health of elders, as well as the murky judicial and administrative decisions defining those policies. This Note recommends expanding access to oral care services by widely implementing a new mid-level dental professional: the dental therapist. With specialized training in caring for the elder population, the dental therapist occupies a role similar to the nurse practitioner: focused services addressing the basic needs of dental hygiene. Existing within the present infrastructure of professional dentistry, the dental therapist increases access to services while lowering institutional costs.

About the Author

Kristen Chang is the Administrative Editor 2015-2016, Member 2014-2015, The Elder Law Journal; J.D. 2016, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; M.P.A. in Health Policy 2011, George Washington University; B.S. in Biological Sciences 2009, University of the Pacific. The author would like to thank her parents, HD, KM, P, and the elders (present and passed) in her life.

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The Elder Law Journal

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