Dr. Richard Pan Introduces Bill Allowing Dentists to Use Innovative Dental Decay Treatment Under Medi-Cal

Silver Diamine Fluoride is a Cost-Effective and Non-Evasive Method to Help Stop Tooth Decay While Protecting California’s Youngest Dental Patients

March 7, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and state senator representing the Sacramento region, has introduced Senate Bill 1148, allowing dentists who provide care in the Medi-Cal dental program to use silver diamine fluoride (SDF) as a treatment option for dental decay. SDF is an FDA-approved liquid that can be applied to teeth to control dental decay and prevent further progression of the disease.

“This treatment allows dentists to control dental decay without using the traditional approach of drilling and filling, which is particularly helpful with children who are too young to cooperate in the dental chair,” said Dr. Pan. “Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease and can have far-reaching impacts, including impaired growth, altered speech, missed school days, difficulty in learning and lowered self-esteem. We should be doing all we can to prevent and control this disease as early as we can.”

SB 1148 will give dentists more options for treating cavities in patients unable to accept traditional treatment, though it does not fully eliminate the need for additional care, which may include future treatment to repair function or aesthetics.

Following a 2014 state auditor’s report that found both poor access to dental care for Denti-Cal beneficiaries and inadequate state oversight of the program, Dr. Pan asked the Little Hoover Commission to undertake a review of the Denti-Cal program and identify how this vital program should meet its purpose to provide access to dental care for many of the most vulnerable Californians, including children.

In April 2016, the Little Hoover Commission released its report, Fixing Denti-Cal, which described “a worsening epidemic of rotting teeth, of toddlers needing surgery because their mouths are already ruined, of desperate parents being unable to get treatment for their special needs children and adults…”

Senate Bill 1148, sponsored by the California Dental Association, puts one of the most current tools for controlling decay into the tool belt of dentists.

“The Medi-Cal dental program is testing SDF now in one of the Dental Transformation Initiative Domains. While that program will provide good information when the pilot ends, we know that SDF is very effective and we should make it more widely available now,” said Dr. John Blake, chair, CDA Government Affairs Council.

Silver diamine fluoride has been available in several other countries for many years. It became available in the United States when it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014. 

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