Removing barriers to oral health access: A multilinked approach

April 29, 2020 Rural Horizons

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While children and adolescents in the United States have shown substantial improvement in terms of oral health in recent years, the same cannot be said for adults.

According to a 2019 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 U.S. adults suffers from untreated tooth decay. CDC data also show an increase in the number of seniors with oral decay — but what these numbers don’t show is why. A partial explanation that is particularly relevant to rural America is access to basic dental care, which has a critical effect on overall health.

According to the American Dental Association, notable barriers to accessing oral health care include general cost, difficulty finding a dentist, inconvenient location/time, and no perceived need. To improve oral health outcomes, it is necessary to understand and address the barriers that prevent individuals from accessing services.

In conversation with Zachary Brian, DMD, program director for the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation’s North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative, we discuss some of the ways these barriers can be addressed, including policy and systems changes and integrated care systems.

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