More than 48 million people in the United States live in areas with dentist shortages. Access to care is also limited for the 72 million children and adults who rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program: Only about one-third of U.S. dentists accept public insurance.
Left untreated, dental health problems can cause pain and tooth loss, impair children’s growth and social development, impede productivity and job opportunities, exacerbate chronic conditions, and complicate detection of oral cancers. And when dental pain becomes too severe to ignore, many people—more than 2 million in 2012—resort to emergency room visits, which provide no treatment for underlying oral health problems but have a high price for patients and taxpayers: $1.6 billion in 2012, with Medicaid’s share totaling $520 million.
Pew’s dental campaign works to close gaps in dental care access by increasing the number of available providers and expanding the reach of preventive services through the use of dental sealant programs in high-need schools. Research shows that such programs are a valuable, cost-effective way to treat the children most at risk of tooth decay
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The number of low-income children with sealants increased by about 70 percent from 1999-2004 to 2011-14, which prevented almost 1 million cavities in this group, according to a new analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Read More
Patients in rural areas face socio-economic, geographic, and workforce barriers when trying to access dental care. In many such areas, residents live far from dental care providers, tend to earn less than nonrural residents, and are less likely to have dental insurance. Read More
Patients in rural Minnesota often travel two hours and more for an appointment with Brandi Tweeter. The dental therapist practices in the city of Montevideo, population 5,400, about 45 miles from the South Dakota line. Why do patients travel so far to see her? Simply put, they can’t get proper dental care any other way. Read More
Working With Midlevel Providers
Dentists share their perspectives on these practitioners.