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Dentist shares personal story in advocating for Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act – New Dentist Blog

Editor’s note: The American Dental Association is proud to announce that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA), H.R. 1916, during the week of April 4. This issue has been a priority for the ADA since its inception. We have worked closely with our colleagues at AAOMS (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons) and many other dental organizations to lobby for it. This was the issue that students and dentists lobbied for in March 2022 Lobby Day. Please click hereTo send a message and to encourage other dentists that you know to send messages, 

Dr. Mark Horner was a suburban Maryland native who was born with a bilateral cleft palate and lip.

Dr. Horner

Clefts are when parts of the body and structures don’t fuse during fetal development. Clefts may occur around the lips or the roof of your mouth.

When he was young, he had nine operations. He continued to progress as he grew. He had braces (orthodontist treatment) from age five to his teens. At age 10, an additional surgery, a “tongue flap”, was utilized to close the residual hole in the roof of his mouth. After ten years, the surgery failed and needed to be re-done. A fixed bridge was made at 17 years old to replace missing teeth as well as to correct misaligned or damaged teeth. In the past 50 years, techniques to treat cleft lip or palate have improved and may require fewer procedures.

Dr. Horner’s mother recalls that she was given minimal guidance on how care for Mark. After she had finished feeding Mark, it was almost time for her to start again. She shared that even though her medical insurance was excellent, she was still hesitant about transferring Mark from another hospital to Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was worried about the cost of treatment. Because they weren’t covered by insurance, the orthodontics and dental bridge had to be paid out-of-pocket. There was also no dental coverage.

A young Mark Horner in 1962

After five decades, this medical condition still isn’t “cured” for Dr. Horner. His 34-year-old dental bridge, along with two additional teeth, had to be taken out at 51 due to bone infection and failing roots. To support an implant, crowns, and a removable appliance, he needed bone grafts. Due to the complexity of his case, it was possible that the work needed to prepare his mouth to receive a new bridge might not be the best. His posterior teeth shifted towards the middle of his mouth after he had his orthodontics in childhood. This was also risky.

The Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act, (S. 754/H.R. 1916) or ELSA. introduced in Congress in 2019 could help children with conditions like Dr. Horner’s. “It is extremely important to help people with birth anomalies because these conditions are not simply cosmetic procedures. Medical and dental procedures are performed to help patients eat, breathe and chew normally” Dr. Horner explained. “They need to be performed in a timely fashion for optimal results. Failing to correct these problems fully can lead to lifelong physical and psychological scars, since children may not ‘fit-in’ and may be subject to bullying and ridicule.”

Dr. Horner continues, “There is no time for parents to be haggling with insurance companies about medical necessity for their children’s conditions. We can’t let patients start their rehabilitation only to delay or discontinue treatment due to insurance denials and financial issues. That just isn’t right!”

“My personal experience and medical history definitely sparked my interest in dentistry,” Dr. Horner explains. “I was lucky that my parents lived close to wonderful hospitals and were able to afford the extensive treatment that I required.”

He saw many congenital dental anomalies as a general practitioner in a suburban area. “I am dedicated to moving this bill forward,” Dr. Horner says “all dentists should be advocating for patients who are completely unaware how ELSA could help.”

Editor’s note: Dr. Horner’s article originally appeared in the New Dentist Now blog on Aug. 19, 2019.


Dentist shares personal story in advocating for Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act – New Dentist Blog

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