Exposing separate but “equal” dentistry

Connecticut team

Yesterday’s Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s #1 newspaper, featured an op-ed exposing yet another injustice resulting from the traditional dental industry’s obsession with mercury: the resurgence of separate but “equal” dentistry.

Authored by Hartford city councilwoman and civil rights attorney Cynthia Jennings, former Hartford health director and physician Mark Mitchell, and author and mercury-free dentist Mark Breiner, this op-ed explains why the state of Connecticut must stop mandating mercury fillings for families on Medicaid immediately.

On March 1, 2015, the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) handed down a new decree: "Medicaid will not pay for composite restorations in the molar teeth regardless of whether the [dental] practice markets itself as 'amalgam free'." It then tells dentists, "If your office cannot provide amalgam services, please have your patients call the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership (CTDHP) (1-855-CT-DENTAL) to locate a new dental home."

With almost half of all dentists practicing mercury-free dentistry, low-income families in Connecticut now have less access to dental care than ever... and it gets worse. As the op-ed explains, “By segregating Medicaid patients from access to mercury-free dentists, DSS creates a separate-but-equal system of dentistry. As thinking Americans know, separate-but-equal was never equal in the Jim Crow days, and it is not equal today.”

As we can see in Connecticut, there is nothing equal about mercury-free composite fillings for those who can afford them... and toxic mercury fillings for everyone else. 

Beyond Connecticut, state Medicaid programs are divided on whether mercury-free dentistry is allowed. On the plus side, an initiative led by Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett has borne fruit: the Oregon state government has thrown in the towel on mandating mercury fillings for children on Medicaid. The reason? There are so many mercury-free dentists these days that excluding them from participating in Medicaid severely limits low-income families’ access to dental care.  

Oregon’s new policy is evidence of the mercury-free dentistry movement's extraordinary growth! But sadly, even in states where Medicaid will pay for mercury-free fillings, that policy is not well-known to dental consumers.  

Like Medicaid, insurance companies fabricate barriers to mercury-free dentistry. But we are working to overcome them. Over 1,800 of you have already signed the petition insisting that Aetna change its dental insurance plans that require policyholders to pay extra out-of-pocket for mercury-free fillings. And well over 100 health professionals (including 121 dentists) endorsed a letter urging this insurance colossus to stop favoring amalgam. 

If you haven’t had a chance to sign the Aetna petition yet, now’s your chance – just click here! If you’ve already signed, please ask your family, friends, and colleagues to sign too – here is a handy shortened link to share: http://tinyurl.com/NoMercuryAetna.

Together, we can make sure that everybody – whether on Medicaid, private insurance, or neither – has access to mercury-free dentistry! 

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