I haven’t conducted a formal poll or anything, but I’m willing to bet that a quite a few of us made at least a few New Year’s resolutions that center on health.

Maybe we want to eat better or walk more or do yoga. Maybe we are resolving to get better sleep or reduce the amount of caffeine we take in.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

Oddly, I don’t hear a lot of people talking about anything connected to their dental health. A resolution to floss more often, for example, or to make an appointment with a periodontist. OK, that one is kind of specific and might be just a “me” thing.

This is a shame because dental health is really important. Not only is tooth pain utterly debilitating, but study after study show a clear, clinical connection between dental health and overall well-being including, as noted by the Harvard School of Public Health, “heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy complications and more.”

In a lot of ways, the lack of dental resolutions care makes total sense. I mean, a nice long walk or some low-key yoga are rewarding in and of themselves. Does anyone ever actually look forward to the dentist? I know I do not. Sorry, doc.

Sadly, it also makes practical sense. Access to quality dental care is limited in this great state we call home, and insurance to help with the costs even more so.


Thankfully, in a major win for everyone, the situation got a lot better for many of us this past summer, when the Legislature gave approval for MaineCare to cover “full dental care for adults, including preventive care like cleanings, diagnostic care and restorative care, like fillings and dentures.”

This is fantastic and I fully applaud all those who worked to make this happen.

However, while it is certainly a major step in the right direction, it is not a full solution to the larger problem.

Those eligible for coverage through the program are often unable to find a provider in their area, or if they do, the provider is unwilling to take on new patients given their existing client load. Making it more complicated still is the lower reimbursement rate offered as compared to private insurance. In fact, according to a Sept. 25, 2022, article in the Portland Press Herald, “dentists (in this program) are still only paid about two-thirds of what private insurance pays.”

The same issues of access and affordability persist with those of us who are lucky enough to have insurance through our employers. Dental care is often excluded or covered in such a way that fairly large out-of-pocket expenses are still incurred by those needing care. It isn’t a working system.

We are making great strides in community health in Maine. We’ve brought in free school lunches for kids, improved education and expanded health care coverage. We should be proud – and we need to keep going. Let’s make dental health for all a priority in the new year.

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