Continuing our Work: Dental Health Access

The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that our healthcare system is not equitable, including access to oral health care and dental services. Dental providers are not distributed equitably across all population groups and geographic areas. Persons of color are underrepresented among dental providers, creating issues of trust for those seeking care. Those living in rural communities often travel long distances to find a dentist. Language and other cultural barriers exist for a growing number of immigrants.  Medicaid reimbursement is below the cost of providing care. Office hours are usually the working hours of low wage earners who cannot take time off work for dental appointments. Although health professionals recommend all children to be seen by age one or when their first tooth erupts, many do not have this access, leading to postponement of preventive and treatment services.

Following its advocacy with Dental Access Now!, a program within Universal HealthCare Access Now (UHCAN), a 7-year, WKKF-funded project to develop grassroots support for the dental therapist model of providing oral health care for the underserved, OPHA established Ohioans for Dental Equity and began executing a successful Community Catalyst funded dental access and dental therapist awareness and education campaign. The dental access project in Ohio has over 90 endorsing individuals and organizations, both progressive and conservative. The infrastructure and credibility of the Ohio Public Health Association and the infrastructure of our ongoing dental therapist efforts will be of great assistance in the success of the effort.  Our dental consultant was the dental director of the Cincinnati Health Department for 30 years and was the volunteer executive director of a highly successful nonprofit agency for 24 years.  His work is well recognized in the field of dental public health. The project director has over 50 years of experience in consumer driven advocacy work, from managing local community action agencies to running statewide anti-poverty organizations.

Please join our work to increase access to dental care and improve oral health in Ohio by contacting David Maywhoor at dmaywhoor@ohiopha.org.