Adequate oral health care is a consistent issue in many communities throughout the United States, but especially in rural communities. Oral diseases can significally limit the ability to eat and speak as well as negatively impact the appearance of the affected person. The consequences encompass decreased economic growth and lowered quality of life. Rural communities have less access to dental care and higher rates of oral diseases.
2020 Oral Health Report
On January 25, 2019, following the Surgeon General’s request for comments on its forthcoming 2020 Oral Health Report, NRHA submitted a comment letter to the Office of the Surgeon General, outlining our recommendations to improve oral healthcare in vulnerable rural areas.
NRHA made a series of recommendations:
- NRHA encourages the continued use of evidence-based strategies to reduce oral health disparities in rural America.
- NRHA supports the expansion of oral healthcare access through workforce capacity growth.
- NRHA believes in strengthening public health initiatives to support the health of residents in underserved rural communities.
- NRHA also supports innovate Public-private partnerships to deliver better oral health results.
These broad recommendations will require the application of rural challenges to allow them to be targeted to rural populations and thereby improve oral health in America
Factors of Dental Inequality
The National Committee on Rural Health and Human Services (2004), names the following contributing factors to accessing dental care in rural America.
- Geographic isolation
- Lack of adequate transportation
- Higher rate of poverty compared to metro areas
- Large elderly population (with limited insurance coverage of oral health services)
- Acute provider shortages
- State-by-state variability in scope of practice
- Difficulty finding providers willing to treat Medicaid patients
- Lack of fluoridated community water
- Poor oral health education
Quality Oral Health for Rural Americans
Oral health is an important segment of overall health. Unfortunately, not all Americans enjoy the same level of care. Rural communities face many barriers to quality care and thus have higher incidences of Oral Diseases. The situation demands coordinated efforts to retarget the available resources into improving the oral health status of rural Americans.
By: Aikaterini Papadopoulou, B.Arch