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Governor Claims Progress on Children's Dental Care

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Rep. Elijah Cummings and several other elected local and state Democratic leaders on Tuesday claimed significant progress in bringing dental care to the state's school children -- an effort launched in 2007 after the death of a 12-year-old Prince George's boy from an untreated oral infection.

Speaking at Seat Pleasant Elementary School in advance of the second annual day of free checkups by dental hygienists, O'Malley said Maryland's increased focus on dental care had helped treat thousands of students for cavities and other ailments that had hampered students' ability to focus in school, and had ensured that Deamonte Driver "did not die in vain."

In a passionate speech at a sparsely attended news conference in the school's gymnasium, Cummings said the fight for better dental care was "about something so much bigger than us. This is about our children being the very best that they can be." Cummings said he would continue to press for national health-care overhaul bills to retain language to expand children's dental care.

Before the news conference, O'Malley read a Sesame Street book titled "Ready, Set, Brush" to a group of 30 second- and third-graders, calling his appearance at the school the day's "warm -up act" for President Barack Obama's controversial lunchtime address.

The event had been in the making for several weeks and fell, coincidentally, on the day of Obama's address, an O'Malley aide said.

Following a recommendation by the governor, the state spent $2 million in the past fiscal year to initiate and expand dental services in underserved areas of the state. O'Malley and state lawmakers also increased reimbursement rates for dentists treating Medicaid children by $14 million -- an increase O'Malley said Tuesday had led to more than 100 additional dentists offering services to Medicaid-eligible children in the past year.

Deamonte, who had been living in a homeless shelter in 2007 before moving into his grandparents' mobile home in Clinton, died from a dental infection that spread to his brain. It is believed that a routine tooth extraction could have saved his life.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 8, 2009; 3:14 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , Governor  
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