PBS to air "Dollars and Dentists" documentary

June 22, 2012

Issue 6

The investigative team at the television show FRONTLINE and the Center for Public Integrity, have joined forces to produce the film “Dollars and Dentists,” which examines the dental care system and offers some solutions to correct problems found within it.

The investigative team at the television show FRONTLINE and the Center for Public Integrity, have joined forces to produce the film “Dollars and Dentists,” which examines the dental care system and offers some solutions to correct problems found within it.

The film will air on PBS stations on Tuesday, June 26.

It is estimated that more than 100 million Americans forego going to the dentist because they can’t afford it, which is one factor that led producers to want to do the documentary. 

“The issue of underserved minority populations is a huge one,” said Randy Barrett, Communications Director for the Center for Public Integrity. “We felt it was a compelling story and we wanted to dig into it.”

According to recent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, one of four children have untreated tooth decay, and it has become the most common chronic illness among school-aged children.

Adults, too, are facing a dental crisis. One in four Medicare beneficiaries are missing all their natural teeth, and low-income and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected because they tend to lack access to care, according to Kaiser.

Barrett said the documentary focuses on two dental chains and one non-profit.

“We found troubling corporate behavior that appears to put profits over service to lower-income people, particularly children,” Barrett said.

Related: [Dental management companies backed by private equity firms could face restrictions]

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According to the Kaiser data, 19 million children had no dental insurance in 2009 - more than twice the number who were without health insurance. Low-income adults receive limited Medicaid benefits for dental care, but even those have been put in jeopardy by the economy: 13 states recently said they cut dental benefits for adults in 2011 or planned to do so this year.

Barrett declined to identify the chains that are highlighted in the show until it airs, but said one beacon of hope may be the non-profit that the documentary highlights.

“That’s a bright spot,” said Barrett. “They appear to be working in a way that benefits patients.”

Check local listings to find out when "Dollars and Dentists" will air. It is scheduled for 10 p.m. EST on Tuesday, June 26.