Proposed Solutions to Bridge the Gap in Oral Healthcare Accessibility

Since my last post, I have spent considerable time investigating the proposed solutions to bridge this oral healthcare gap. While the facts and figures warrant a change in health policy, what would a feasible, effective change look like? Some experts in the field suggest community-based sealant and fluoride programs. Dental sealants are clear plastic coating applied to molars (the teeth most likely to get cavities), can be applied by hygienists or dentists, and require little equipment. Fluoride can be added to a community water supply or administered as a mouth rinse to strengthen the enamel (outer, protective coating) of teeth. Both options save far more money in dental treatment costs, which can include Medicaid dollars and therefore save the States considerable funding.

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Socioeconomic Determinants of Oral Health

Since posting my initial research plan in the spring, further reading has convinced me to slightly adjust my topic. While I was originally set out to uncover the reasons why some people feel uncomfortable at the dentist, I stumbled upon a much larger and perhaps more obvious problem: it’s not that most individuals don’t want to go to the dentist, it’s that many of them cannot go to the dentist. According to a recent study of the National Health Interview Survey, the main cause for adults to avoid the dentist is cost: over 40% of the surveyed population could not afford treatment or had no insurance, whereas only 10% of adults cited fear as the reason they had no recent dental visit. Certain populations within the United States are facing a serious disparity in accessibility to quality oral healthcare; many individuals either lack dental insurance and cannot afford it or don’t have access to a health center offering affordable services.

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Investigating the Negative Stigma of Dentistry

The continually lukewarm response I receive when my peers find out I am a pre-dental student stood out to me as a reflection of a larger negative sentiment about dentistry. Just look online and you will find countless comedic routines, blog articles, and social media posts about how Americans find dental work so un-enjoyable. I wonder if interpersonal interactions between the dentist and patient, lack of communication and patient knowledge about procedures, lingering reputations of older, perhaps more unpleasant equipment, or another factor is to blame for these opinions.

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