Press TV (2017)
This documentary highlights the millions of Americans unable to access dental care owing to the prohibitive cost. With a routine dental checkups costing a week’s salary on average, healthy teeth have become an unaffordable luxury in the US.
The US is the only developed country that refuses to provide basic health care for all its residents. Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010, poor Americans unable to access medical services experienced an average of 45,000 preventable deaths annually.
Total preventable deaths dropped initially (to 18,000) with the enactment of Obamacare. Since then skyrocketing premiums – coupled with Trump’s repeal of premium subsidies – have caused a rebound in the number of uninsured Americans.
California used to provide free dental services for indigent residents under the state Medicaid program. However this was discontinued in 2009. Although indigent children are still theoretically eligible to receive DentiCal services, reimbursement rates are so low only a handful of Los Angeles dentists participate in the program.
The film focuses on nongovernmental efforts to improve dental health in the Los Angeles Hispanic community. Ironically dental health deteriorates in Mexicans after they immigrate to the US – and move from rural areas to inner cities lacking access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus an essential component of the University of Southern California (USC) dental health outreach program involves a campaign to increase urban gardens and nutrition education in schools.
The USC Ostrow School of Dentistry also recruits volunteer dentists to run free dental clinics for children, the unemployed, the uninsured and the elderly (of all ethnicities).
In addition to to the USC program, the Los Angeles Hispanic Dental Association has established a fund to support Spanish-speaking students in pursuing dental degrees and foreign-trained Hispanic dentists in jumping the bureaucratic hurdles of obtaining a US work permit .