According to a study published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene, access to oral health care has remained a major problem in the United States and has become a national crisis. In fact, A 2012 Senate investigation revealed that 17 million children from low-income families did not receive any preventive dental care and 130 million Americans lacked dental insurance coverage in 2009. Most of these low-income families come from rural areas.
What are the factors that contribute to inadequate dental access in rural communities?
The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services identified several factors that contribute to the problems of accessing dental care in rural America. These are the following:
1. Geographic Isolation - Because of the location of these rural communities, there are also fewer dental health professionals who are available in the area.
2. Inadequate Transportation - This means that rural area residents will have a hard time travelling to a dentist.
3. High Poverty Rate - Due to the high poverty rates, people in rural communities will not be able to afford dental care.
4. Older Population - Rural America has a high percentage of people older than 65. These people are generally unemployed and does not have dental insurance.
5. Providers not willing to treat Medicaid Patients - Because of the low reimbursement rates, the American Dental Association noted that 2/3 of all US dentists do not serve publicly insured patients.
6. Shortage of Providers - According to a 2020 report, majority of the places with shortage of dental providers belong in the rural areas.
7. Lack of Dental Insurance - Because of the high costs of some dental services, peopple with no dental insurance choose not to have professional dental care.
What are the ways to improve dental access in rural communities?
Considering the above factors that contribute to the lack of dental care access for rural communities, here are some innovative ways identified by the Rural Health Information Hub to improve dental access:
1. Oral Health Integration - This refers to the integration of oral healthcare into primary care settings in order to improve access in underserved communities. One good way is to include oral health services in Rural Health Clinics.
2. Mobile Dentistry - There has been an increase in the number of mobile dental clinics serving rural communities. Just like Covenant Family Dental Care, these mobile dental vans have traveled across the United States in order to bring quality dental care to rural areas. With this model, those people who are unable to travel to dentists for a variety of reasons can be given professional dental help.
3. Fluoridation of Water Supply - According to an article in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, for every $1 spent in fluoridation, $38 will be saved from dental care costs.
4. Other Models - These include School-Based Dental Care Initiatives, Virtual Dental Homes, and the use of Community Health Workers in providing dental care.
While access to dental healthcare has remained a pressing concern in the United States, dental care providers are now finding innovative ways in order to improve the current situation and provide better access to rural communities. We are optimistic that in the near future, the underserved communities will have adequate access to quality and affordable healthcare.
If you are in the NE Kansas area, our mobile dentistry provides quality and affordable healthcare within your communities. Book your appointment here.