Improving Access to Dental Care for Low-Income Families

Dental care, or oral health, is a regular part of your overall health plan. It includes preventive measures like brushing, flossing and regular check-ups to help you avoid cavities (holes in the teeth) and gum disease. But it also treats problems that can arise, such as a toothache or an infected mouth sore. Oral health is linked to overall health; bacteria in your mouth can enter your bloodstream and contribute to health issues like heart disease.

Good dental health is important to everyone. But it’s especially vital for children, pregnant women and older adults. These groups face special challenges that can affect their ability to access and use dental care.

While a healthy diet and exercise are critical to good dental health, accessing proper care can be difficult for many families. And the costs of dental care can be overwhelming for some low-income households.

In 2021, more than half of all dental costs were not paid by private insurance companies but by supplemental government programs, including Medicaid. These programs are designed to support a system of care that is comprehensive, integrated and responsive to people’s needs, especially those with the lowest incomes.

The federal government plays an important role in supporting training for dental hygienists and dentists, as well as for primary care physicians, pharmacists, nurses and community health workers who can assist with referrals and link people to services they need. Government-funded programs, such as the Indian Health Service and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children can also improve access to dental care by hiring dentists and other specialized providers who work in underserved areas.

Tooth decay and gum disease are often the result of poor eating habits and poor dental hygiene. But other factors can also play a role, such as hormones (during pregnancy or menopause) and medications (such as steroids).

To keep your mouth healthy, brush twice daily, floss regularly and make sure to visit your Northbrook dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. Your dentist can recommend the right products for your dental hygiene routine, take X-rays to detect hidden abnormalities and offer treatment before a problem becomes serious.

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