The Inequities in American Oral Health

Posted February 07, 2017 by Josh Grant

Young Boy At Dentists Office
Inequities in oral health are keeping every child from having healthy teeth.

Not everyone has the same smile, and inequities in America’s oral health system are keeping some communities from having healthy teeth, let alone a bright grin.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, making it a perfect opportunity for understanding the challenges that many families face in accessing adequate dental care. Only through learning about these inequities can solutions for real change be developed, tested and implemented.

Racial and Economic Barriers Create Gaps
As is the case in other types of healthcare, inequities in oral health exist primarily along racial and socioeconomic lines. In children ages 2 to 8, the rate of untreated tooth decay is twice as high for African American and Hispanic populations as it is for the white population. Further, 37 percent of American Indian children ages 1 to 5 have untreated dental decay.

This is despite a high rate of dental insurance coverage through Medicaid. The issue lies in the difference between coverage and access to care. Because Medicaid funding varies from state to state, programs are often underfunded so few providers participate and accept Medicaid. Even in cases when providers accept Medicaid, families have trouble connecting with them.

In other cases, many parents may wait for emergencies to go to the dentist because treatment is not affordable on a regular basis. In the U.S., the high cost of care is the top reason why both the insured and uninsured avoid going to the dentist.

For a further look at health inequities among underserved populations, read our features on:

· Smoking cessation
· Safe sleep
· Birth spacing
· Preterm births

New Strategies to Close Gaps
At the federal, state and local levels, efforts are underway to improve oral health for vulnerable populations and communities. Representative Robin Kelly’s (D-Illinois) 2015 report “Health Disparities in America” includes some potential paths forward for closing gaps in care. In addition to bolstering Medicaid and introducing new policy to create grants for oral health outreach programs, it also includes recommendations to expand assistance services like Women, Infant and Children (WIC).

But some local WIC agencies are not waiting for federal assistance when it comes to dental services. In Oregon, some offices are participating in a project with the University of Washington and Advantage Dental Services, a provider for Oregon Medicaid beneficiaries. This a test to determine whether Medicaid payments for providers to offer care in an efficient setting will improve the rates of children who receive dental care. If it achieves that goal, more children will have access to preventative treatments, which can help prevent larger issues and emergencies down the road.

Another path forward is increasing education around oral health for patients, providers and policymakers. Within communities, this would mean empowering families to take greater control of their health by showing them how to access care despite the inequities they face.

These actions and similar efforts should help ease the challenges underserved populations face when searching for dental care. Oral health is a key component of a person’s overall health, so resolving these inequities will be one step in ensuring that every child has an opportunity to achieve their optimal health. 

Share:

Add your comment

 
 

 

Archive

Tagcloud

baby box safe sleep nichq infant mortality family engagement quality improvement eccs coiin immunizations health equity health disparities accreditation im coiin astho qi onboarding collaboration engagement partnerships larc nashp breastfeeding new york wic new york state hospitals mom mother partners epilepsy data AAP early childhood pdsas texas community support learning session children's health new technology engineering transgender collaborative learning planning PDSA planning paralysis underplanning analysis paralysis vision eye health smoking smoke-free housing second-hand smoke toolkit e-module infant health dental care oral health underserved populations health inequity public health Maternal and Child Health Journal tips leadership engagement Sickle cell disease indiana SCD medicaid perinatal regionalization sudden infant death syndrome national birth defects prevention month birth defects pregnancy planning one key question prepregnancy health preconception health public breastfeeding support families patients experts insights CHOPT childhood obesity innovation food desert telemedicine TBLC breastfeeding supporting preterm birth prematurity racial disparities audiology ehdi follow-up illinois talana hughes vulnerable populations sports asthma soccer basketball obesity football SIDS Pokemon Go gamification smartphones interconception care birth spacing issue brief contraceptive use postpartum care CoIN HRSA early childhood trauma NHSA community health consumer advocacy womens health interconception health teenage health PATCH wisconsin missouri risk appropriate care community health workers SCD< infographic infant mortality awareness month inspirations childrens health national breastfeeding month maternal health patient engagement hearing loss hearing treatment pediatric vision vision screening eyesight pre-term birth early-term birth SCD clinic los angeles LOCATe CDC levels of care neonatal care maternal care smoking cessation project safe sleep practices neonatal abstinence syndrome NAS opioids maternal and child health MCH Family voices quality care mental health hydroxyurea SCDTDP men dads testing change data sharing state government city government apps sleep AJPM preconception care senior leadership breastfeeding support video series access BQIH exclusive breastfeeding long-acting reversible contraception unplanned pregnancies social determinants of health health innovations Best Babies Zone CoIIN baby boxes Rhode Island progesterone rooming-in Baby-Friendly parent partner patient and family engagement healthy weight healthy lifestyles primary care telementoring ECHO video conferencing socioemotional health childhood development pediatric Tennessee interview National Coordinating and Evaluation Center medical-legal partnerships mobile app disparities perinatal care overweight obese healthy weight clinic wellness pilot sites data collection education resources paternal engagement risk-appropriate care preterm infants high-risk babies Ten Steps public relations social movement reversible contraceptives medical home pediatric medical home patient transformation facilitator PTF skin-to-skin rooming in prenatal smoking information visualization charts SUID postpartum new mother webinar AMCHP QI Tips ongoing improvement fourth trimester partnership quality and safety coaching PDSA Cycle leadership support year end holiday message reflections gratitute Medicaid data doctor relationship PQC perinatal quality collaboratives vision care vision health evidence-based guidelines ASH health and wellness healthy living healthy eating home visitors home visiting programs March of Dimes APHA results evaluation supplementation formula reduction video infant loss social media advocacy leadership Berns Best Fed Beginnings Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding sustainability stress prenatal care data capacity epidemiologists surveillance data PFAC community partners preconception and interconception care motivational interviewing Native Americans ADHD NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale ADHD Toolkit system design care coordination skin to skin newborn screening reduce smoking aim statement safe birth Texas Ten Step skin-to-skin contact 10 Steps staff training small tests acute care mother-baby couplet collective impact population health preconception Newborn Screening Program substance abuse breast milk formula milk bank crisis Huffington Post fundraising campaign first responders NYC improvement healthcare health system sickle cell diease treatment protocol family health partner maternity care Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network Health Outcomes Cross-Sector Collaboration Knowledge Sharing Child Health