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Five years after Deamonte Driver's death, Md. leaders recommit to children's dental care


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Photo by Gloria Johnston. Sen. Ben Cardin addresses the state of children's dental care, citing improvements Maryland has made since the death five years ago of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, of Prince George's County.

Photo by Gloria Johnston. Sen. Ben Cardin addresses the state of children's dental care, citing improvements Maryland has made since the death five years ago of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, of Prince George's County.

Published on: Thursday, February 09, 2012

By Gloria Johnston

This month marks the five-year anniversary of Prince George’s County native, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver’s tragic death on Feb. 25, 2007, due to complications from tooth decay.

A seemingly simple toothache turned into an abscess that spread to Deamonte’s brain and eventually killed him. The unique circumstances surrounding his death spun the county and eventually Congress on a quest to improve children’s dental healthcare.

Monday morning, county and state officials gathered at the Prince George’s County Health Department headquarters in Cheverly to kick-off National Children’s Dental Health Month.

“We come together as a community to commemorate a tragedy that happened five years ago, but that tragedy was preventable,” Sen. Ben Cardin said. “Five years ago we didn’t have a registry of dentists providing affordable health care, and as a result Deamonte Driver lost his life.”

Due to numerous initiatives, start-ups and partnerships in the past five years, Maryland currently has the strongest children’s dental health programs in the country, Cardin said.

“Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and I would like to think we would have gotten this done without Deamonte, but unfortunately, statistics get boring,” Cardin said.

County Executive Rushern Baker announced plans to build a regional health care facility in the southern part of Maryland.

“A lot of the problems we are talking about today have to do with access to health care,” Baker said. “In a country, state and county this wealthy, it is unacceptable to not have access to health care.”

Additionally, John Welby, director of the Maryland Oral Health Literacy Campaign announced the launch of a Maryland marketing campaign to promote dental health and hygiene that will include a TV campaign, radio ads and social media outreach.

“The loss of Deamonte was a tragedy, but it certainly put a spotlight on the situation,” said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

According to Brown, in the past five years, the percentage of children with access to affordable dental health care has gone up from 44 to 64 percent.

“But we can’t stop until 100 percent of our children have access to affordable health care,” Brown said.

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