Expanding Access to Dental Care
The United States boasts arguably one of the best oral healthcare systems in the world. In spite of this, however, many people in the country are believed to lack access to quality oral care. Millions suffer preventable dental issues, such as tooth decay, as a result.
Stout Dentistry, a dental practice in Charlotte, NC, does our part to contribute to supporting the underserved populations in the Charlotte area, through our outreach and volunteering efforts. Dr. Stout and staff participate in many of the national “Give Kids a Smile Day”. We are also involved with Communities in School, treating at-risk student participants pro bono. We understand that promoting good oral hygiene practices early on in life can contribute to good oral health practices for life.
Dental Care For The Underserved Populations
Lack of access to good oral health care is not much of a hot topic in the news or other forms of media. However, in low-income communities, poor oral health is clearly a problem. Children from low-income families are suffering from conditions that are completely preventable if only parents and children had access to ongoing support and preventative dental care health education from dental professionals.
So, what factors make it difficult for many Americans to get necessary dental care? What problems result from this and what can be done to address them?
Poor Access to Dental Care
The latest report from the Center for Medicare Advocacy is entitled “Expanded Dental Coverage Needed to Confront Health Crisis”. This report discusses limited access to dental care as an issue that affects children and the elderly. Pediatric and geriatric patients suffer from tooth decay and tooth loss due to age and diet more often than others. If any age group is in need of patient education and access to dental care it is these two age groups since they’re impacted the most.
Children and adults in low-income households are nearly two less likely to go for an annual dental checkup. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, parents in low-income families find it harder to get quality care for their children even when they know the importance of such care. In 2009, 17 million children from low-income households received no dental care at all.
“Two Birds With One Stone” is Medicaid
There are many factors to consider when trying to figure out the “why”. It is often an issue of transportation or even a lack of dental coverage and doctors who accept Medicaid or Medicare.
Cost and coverage are obviously more complex issues than transportation. Yet, a program like Medicaid can assist with both affordability and transportation cost if a patient is approved for the program.
Like many other public health issues, education is key. Offering workshops and campaigns online and via other forms of media can help get the word out about coverage options. Understanding all public and private sector insurance options is a game changer for those who are not receiving treatment simply because of cost.
As a result of poor access, one in four adults in America, aged 65 or older, have lost all of their teeth. Severe tooth loss not only affects your quality of life but also contributes to the stomach and intestinal issues.
Shortage of providers who accept Medicaid in rural areas and language barriers also affects accessibility.
Dental Diseases Caused By Poor Dental Care
Preventable dental problems are to be expected when people do not take proper care of their teeth and mouth. One is the main preventable problems is severe enamel loss and tooth decay. These conditions not only affect your day to day life in personal social settings but they can also interfere with your professional life. Dental issues often lead to missed work and absence from school.
Overall health is also impacted by oral health issues. Periodontitis can increase the risk for serious medical conditions that include diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The problem is much bigger than a dental health problem, lack of access to dental care can lead to these disease and more. Unfortunately, those who experience a lack of access to dental care, especially due to cost, will also experience a lack of access to overall health care due to cost.
Low-income individuals often turn to emergency rooms (ERs) for help when having dental and other health-related issues. This comes at great costs to taxpayers, in particular. For instance, visits to ERs for treatment for dental issues alone in Florida amounted to more than $88 million in 2010 in total costs. Who pays these costs when the poor can not?
What Can be Done to Improve Access?
It is obvious from the foregoing that one of the best ways to make dental care more accessible is to make dental insurance more affordable. One suggestion by some supporters of expanding access is for the government to expand coverage to adults on Medicare and Medicaid. This should be regarded as essential under the Affordable Care Act.
Increase the number of providers
Give the dentist an incentive to accept low-income patients. If there are more dental professionals who can treat individuals from low-income households much of the problem would be alleviated.
One way to encourage dentists to see people with Medicaid and so expand access is by increasing reimbursement rates. Researchers found in a study that providers were more willing to treat children when Medicaid payments increased.
Dental schools are encouraging their students to gain experience in community-based programs. Community-based programs enable more people to gain access to dental care for little or no cost.
Our Eastover Dental Practice
is conveniently located in Charlotte NC.
If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article it may be time to see Dr. Stout. Schedule an appointment with Stout Dentistry. Give us a call today at 704.332.7737.