Low-Income, Minority Populations Face Several Barriers to Dental Care
The Washington Post on Tuesday examined how the recent death of a 12-year-old Washington, D.C.-area boy "is drawing renewed attention to the barriers to oral health care facing the nation's poor" and minority populations. The boy, Deamonte Driver, was black, homeless and had trouble finding a dentist who would accept his family's Medicaid coverage, the Post reports. Driver died after an infection that started in his tooth spread to his brain. According to the 2006 National Survey of Children's Health, which was released by HHS, white children overall have better oral health than black and Hispanic children. In addition, the report linked good oral health with good overall health. According to the report, 74.4% of children whose overall health was described as "excellent very good" also had "excellent very good" dental health. However, 38% of children whose overall health was considered "good, fair or poor" had teeth in "excellent or very good" condition. Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, current director of the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine, said that racial and economic disparities exist "in both the prevalence of oral health problems and ... access to oral health care." People who are poor, particularly children and the elderly, are more likely than others to have poor oral health, he added. Satcher oversaw the 2000 release of the first surgeon general report on oral health. Children who are enrolled in Medicaid face several barriers to dental care, including limited English proficiency, low reimbursement rates for providers, bureaucracy and lack of transportation, according to the Post. Poor and underserved patients seeking dental care generally can obtain services through clinics. About 73% of the federally qualified health centers funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration provide dental services on site (Payne, Washington Post, 3/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.