Doctor Plotka's Blog

13 Jun 2024

Dr. Plotka's Believes in Equitable and Accessible Dental Care

In today’s society, dental care is often overlooked as an essential component of overall health. However, equitable and accessible dental care is crucial for maintaining oral hygiene and preventing serious health issues. 

At Dr. Plotka’s, we believe that oral health has a direct impact on systemic health and that everyone deserves access to quality dental care regardless of their socioeconomic status. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of equitable dental care, the barriers many people face, and how we can work together to bridge the gap.

The Importance of Equitable Dental Care
Oral health is a vital part of overall health and well-being. Poor dental hygiene can lead to a variety of health issues, including gum disease, tooth decay, and even heart disease. Furthermore, dental problems can affect an individual’s confidence and quality of life. Ensuring equitable access to dental care means providing everyone with the opportunity to achieve and maintain good oral health, which in turn supports their overall health.

Barriers to Accessible Dental Care
Despite the importance of dental care, many people face significant barriers to accessing it. Some of the most common barriers include:

  1. Financial Constraints: The cost of dental care can be prohibitive for many individuals, particularly those without dental insurance. Even with insurance, high co-pays and deductibles can deter people from seeking the care they need. Expanding insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare to include adult dental benefits is crucial. While most states provide at least emergency dental benefits for adult Medicaid beneficiaries, nearly one-third do not offer dental care beyond emergency procedures. Advocates and policymakers are working to change this, with states like Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia implementing new or expanded benefits for all Medicaid adult beneficiaries.

  2. Geographical Limitations: In rural or underserved urban areas, there may be a lack of dental providers, making it difficult for residents to access care. Transportation issues can also be a barrier for those living in remote locations.

  3. Lack of Awareness: Many people are unaware of the importance of regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene practices. This lack of awareness can lead to neglect and worsening dental conditions.

  4. Cultural and Language Barriers: For some individuals, language and cultural differences can make it challenging to seek and receive appropriate dental care. This includes difficulty in understanding dental health information and communicating with providers.

  5. Barriers for People with Disabilities: People with disabilities face immense barriers to accessing appropriate oral health care services. These barriers include physical access to dental offices, which may not accommodate wheelchairs or other assistive devices, and difficulties in expressing pain or anxiety. Some dentists may lack the confidence or training to meet the needs of people with disabilities, leading to frequent referrals to hospitals for dental care. These hospital visits often involve long wait times and lack follow-up or continuous preventive care, perpetuating a cycle of recurring dental problems.

How Can We Overcome Barriers?
Addressing these barriers requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some strategies that can help improve accessibility and equity in dental care:

  1. Community Outreach and Education: Increasing awareness about the importance of oral health through community programs can help educate individuals on proper dental hygiene practices and the need for regular check-ups. Schools, community centers, and healthcare facilities can serve as hubs for these educational efforts.

  2. Affordable Care Programs: Expanding programs that offer affordable or free dental care to low-income individuals can significantly improve access. This includes government programs, non-profit organizations, and dental schools that provide reduced-cost services.

  3. Mobile Dental Clinics: Mobile dental units can bring care directly to underserved areas, reducing the geographical barriers to access. These clinics can provide preventive care, basic treatments, and education to communities in need.

  4. Tele-dentistry: Utilizing technology to provide dental consultations and care can help reach individuals in remote or underserved areas. Tele-dentistry can offer screenings, follow-ups, and even some treatments, making dental care more accessible.

  5. Cultural Competence Training: Training dental professionals in cultural competence can improve communication and trust between providers and patients from diverse backgrounds. This can lead to better understanding and more effective care.

  6. Improving Access for People with Disabilities: Ensuring dental offices are physically accessible and training dentists to meet the needs of people with disabilities can improve care for this population. Advocacy for policies that support these initiatives is also crucial.

The Role of Policy and Advocacy
Policymakers play a crucial role in ensuring equitable access to dental care. Advocacy for policies that support funding for dental programs, expansion of dental insurance coverage, and incentives for dentists to work in underserved areas is essential. Protecting the progress made in expanding adult dental benefits under Medicaid and Medicare is critical, especially during state budget crises. By influencing policy, we can create a more equitable healthcare system that prioritizes oral health for all.

Equitable and accessible dental care is not just a matter of health, but of social justice. At Dr. Plotka’s, we are committed to breaking down barriers and providing quality dental care essentials at an affordable price. We also partner with local agencies by donating supplies to those in need. 

We believe that we can bridge the gap in dental hygiene and ensure a healthier future for all, and would love to hear from our customers how we could do more to further progress in this area.