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Blind patients oral hygiene is a case for concern

By Robert B.

For many years, the federal government has taken action to make dental care more available to blind patients. The primary vehicle has been Medicaid, a joint federal and state health program for more than 40 million people from low-income families in addition to blind or physically handicapped people.

Still other programs support community health centers and other facilities and medical personnel in locations where blind patients in need of oral hygiene live.

These programs, although relatively small compared with Medicaid, extend health care services to many additional low-income and vulnerable populations.

Despite such efforts, the use of dental services remains low for many visually impaired individuals. In April 2000, responding in part to a request from you to study this issue, we reported that blind people have low rates of dental visits and high rates of dental disease relative to the rest of the population. To help determine why, this report addressed factors that explain low dental service use by Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries and the role of other federal safety-net programs in improving access to dental care.

By improving blind patients oral hygiene, we’re helping them to live healthier, and fuller lives. While it saddens many people to see a visually impaired person, we can help them in all other ways possible besides giving their sight back.

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