21st Century Solutions for Dental Care Access

Oral health is essential to overall health. Healthy teeth and gums are critical components of a person’s physical health, well-being and quality of life. Proper preventive care also produces critical savings for our health care system by avoiding more costly treatment down the line.

Despite the critical importance of preventive care, not all Oregonians regularly visit a dentist. Black children and other children of color, along with lower-income families, disproportionately endure poorer oral health outcomes and receive fewer preventive services. Certain rural communities in Oregon also continue to face barriers to access – although recent studies have shown incredible progress in some remote areas.

Now, Oregon faces a new set of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue working to expand access to quality oral health care, the state will face great demand for public resources, while those resources may be far more limited than in typical years.

With this in mind, the Oregon Dental Association has developed a white paper bringing together diverse research and data sources to better understand barriers to access, along with what solutions are working to overcome these obstacles in underserved communities without compromising the quality and safety of care these communities receive. The resulting report identifies solutions demonstrated to expand access and utilization of quality dental care.

Part of the solution is structural: Dental offices must be convenient to access for every Oregonian. Part of the solution is affordability: The state must continue dental care support for its Medicaid populations while also ensuring that provider reimbursements adequately cover the cost of care.

All solutions must center true equity. Whether the state creates rural and Tribal scholarships for dental and medical school students, or expands dental services in schools and community dental clinics in senior facilities, we must always focus on evidence-based solutions that improve health outcomes and access, without lowering standards for any underserved community.

For past Oregon Action for Dental Health Research and News, please click here.