The United States dental care system demonstrates the many hurdles Americans have to experience to get proper dental care, a problem common in many countries. Yet while the US is one of the richest countries in the world, around ⅓ of the population are having difficulties in accessing dental care. Mainly because they are provided by privatized and autonomous systems that do not take into consideration economic deprivation, disability, lack of dental coverage and geographic isolation. Yet for more than two decades, calls for dental health care reforms have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Dental health care for everyone, has been a marginal topic of debate among US lawmakers.
The United States has up to now been struggling to provide basic healthcare as a human right to the vast majority, moreso on provisions for oral and dental services. Although dentists count as healthcare providers, majority cannot help but opt to practice by way of private clinics. After all, they also need to realize satisfying returns on on their investments in education, staff and dental equipment. Middles class patients on the other hand, have to scrimp and save, or resort to taking out personal loans in case the need for dental treatment is immediate.
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Affordable Dental Care Options Unavailable to Americans
America’s healthcare safety net is very much lacking in affordable dental services and treatments. Even Medicaid that cater to more than 74 million low-income Americans consider adult dental treatments and services as optional health care services. Although children are qualified to receive dental care assistance under Medicaid, less than half of America’s child population seek dental care and treatment.
Many non profit organizations are aware of the dental shortage issue in rural areas, which is why they set up free clinics in the most underserved rural areas that desperately need dental services. The Dental Director of non-profit Remote Area Medical (RAM) Dr. John Osborn, describes these areas as ones that the country’s health care system has passed up.
Lousy Teeth Tend to Doom People for Life
A United Nations Special Rapporteur named Philip Alston who focuses on human rights and extreme poverty, once mentioned how having lousy teeth lessens a person’s chances of getting a job in the US. Through his study of extreme poverty in America, the shortage of affordable oral health care and the stigmatization of oral diseases affect the civil rights of people. According to Alston, being poor and having lousy teeth bar individuals from opportunities of advancing their status in society to escape poverty.
Poor Oral Health Conditions in America, a Silent Epidemic
In a landmark report in 2000 written by then incumbent U.S Surgeon General David Satcher, titled as “Oral Health in America,” mention was made of poor oral health as a silent epidemic in the country. This is primarily because there’s a prevalence of oral health problems ranging from gum diseases to cavities, to oral cancers. Satcher noted that poor elderly, poor kids and members of ethnic and racial minority groups experience an unreasonable level of oral health issues.
Satcher’s landmark report concluded with a call that appeals for removing barriers to healthcare, raising awareness regarding oral health; of the need to change how oral health workforce operates. He also called for increased studies and research in making the country’s healthcare system available to all citizens with oral health needs.