Community Efforts to Expand Dental Services for Low-Income People

Poor oral health among low-income people is gaining attention as a significant health care problem. Key barriers to dental services include low rates of dental insurance coverage, limited dental benefits available through public insurance programs, and a lack of dentists willing to serve low-income patients, according to findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change’s (HSC) 2007 site visits to 12 nationally representative metropolitan communities. Communities are attempting to provide more dental services to low-income residents. Along with state efforts to increase dentists’ participation in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), hospitals, community health centers, health departments, dental schools and others are working to expand dental services, with some focusing on basic preventive services and others pursuing more comprehensive dental care. Many community efforts rely on increasing the number of dental professionals available to treat low-income people. Without additional involvement from the dental community and state and federal policy-makers, however, many low-income people likely will continue to lack access to dental care and suffer the consequences.