Disparities in access to oral health

The conditions into which you are born, grow up and live can influence your ability to care for your teeth and gums. Let’s look at a few groups who are in need of better access to oral health services, then discuss what efforts there are to reduce existing disparities.

Who needs better access to care?

Low-income Americans are 2 to 3 times more likely to have untreated cavities.

There are many reasons for this, from being unable to afford a dental plan and care expenses to living in a community without adequate access to oral health care or fluoridated water.

Children and adults of color are more likely to have untreated tooth decay.

It’s more common among non-Hispanic Black people and Mexican Americans in any age group, typically because of issues with access or financial factors.

60% of adults 65 or older have some form of gum disease.

Challenges with transportation, lack of dental coverage or physical impairment can prevent older adults from visiting the dentist and getting the care they need.

4 in 10 Americans do not currently have dental coverage.

Uninsured or low-income adults are two times as likely to have at least one to three untreated cavities, and three times as likely to have four or more untreated cavities.

What programs help reduce oral health disparities?

School sealant programs

These programs send dental professionals to schools to provide free sealants for children. Sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on teeth that greatly reduce cavity risk.

Mobile dental clinics

These traveling vehicles take dental professionals to their patients, instead of the other way around.

Community water fluoridation

This helps reduce cavities, tooth loss, and tooth decay. Speak with your dentist if you don’t have access to fluoridated water. 

Meet Joseph Dill, DDS, Delta Dental’s Chief Dental Officer. With more than 30 years of experience in the dental field, including eight in private and public health practice and 20 in dental insurance, Dr. Dill provides expert insights and helpful advice to keep you smiling bright.