Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease – more common than asthma. Left untreated, dental decay can impede learning, social development and proper nutrition. Access to dental care continues to be the number one health access issue in Ohio. It can also lead to a lifetime of poor health, as it has been associated with diabetes, stroke, heart disease and poor pregnancy outcomes. Oral cancer or cancer of the mouth can cause physical and financial devastation and even death. COVID has further demonstrated the importance of being absent of infections that can worsen the symptoms and outcomes of other diseases.
Ohioans for Dental Equity
From cavities to cancer, from womb to tomb, access to prevention and treatment care for oral diseases and infections have been repeatedly reported by the Ohio Department of Health as one of the greatest health care needs of Ohio families.
Untreated, they can lead to debilitating pain causing loss of work and school. Generally not known is that they are related to cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes, worsen the impact of diabetes and can even lead to death.
Minorites, children of low income families, the working poor, seniors, nursing home residents, the developmentally challenged, and people living in rural areas are most at risk. Some Ohioans live in an area facing a dental shortage. Many low-income Ohioans report getting shut out from dental care because they can not find a provider.
For many of us our greatest oral health challenge is finding a dentist we like with convenient office hours. For some of our neighbors, who struggle with the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, it is much worse.
The majority of the current workforce, both dentists and dental hygienists, are middle-to-upper income, suburban and white. Dental practices cater to those who are generally healthy, and have insurance or the financial resources to pay for care. Clearly, it is a social justice and racial equity issue.
The Ohio Public Health Association created Ohioans for Dental Equity to build support for policy initaitives that address these issues and will improve oral health care for all Ohioans.
We advocate for three primary policy goals that have the ability to transform oral health in Ohio.
Improving Medicaid reimbursement rates
Currently, more than 500,00 Ohioans rely on Medicaid for their health coverage, in addition to 1.2 million children. However, one of the greatest obstacles for these Ohioans are that no providers will take Medicaid in their area. On average, only one-third of dentists in the United States will accept patients with Medicaid and Medicare. By improving the Medicaid reimbursement rates, Ohio would provide a greater incentive to accept these patients, as well as financially support the oral health infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.
Addressing dental shortages by incorporating dental therapists to the oral health team
Today, too many Ohioans live in an area facing a dental shortage. In these communities, there are simply not enough dentists to meet the needs of the population. This situation is most prevalent in rural areas, where there are gaps in health care access across the board. Many publicly funded clinics either have no dental care or are underfunded for dental care. Those that have dental facilities often have vacant dental positions and high turnover.
Establishing benchmarks for improved representation of the dental workforce and the communities they represent
Representation matters. When a patient is seen by a medical professional who understands them, looks like them, and shares experiences, that patient is more likely to trust that provider and their health recommendations.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
We are honored to have the following organizations support Ohioans for Dental Equity.
Area Office on Aging of nW Ohio
Health Partners of Western Ohio
Liberty Center of Sandusky County
Northwest Ohio Community Action Commission
One Village Council
Ohio Olmstead Task Force
Western Ohio Foodbank
Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (GLCAP)
Athens County Department of Job and Family Services
Athens County Family and Children's First Council
CAC of Belmont County
Family Health Centers of Pike County
Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action Agency
Six County, Inc.
Community Action Corporation of Washington Morgan Counties
Council on Rural Services - Dan Schwanitz
Dominican Sisters of Hope
Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless
Highland County Community Action, Headstart/Early Start
Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center
Miami County Recovery Council, Inc.
Miami Valley Child Development Centers Inc.
Ohio Head Start Association
The Center for Closing The Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati
Over the Rhine Community Council
Over the Rhine Community Housing
People's Empowerment Coalition of Ohio
Peaslee Neighborhood Center
Power Inspires Progress
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
Shared Harvest Foodbank
Saint Francis Seraph Ministries
Shawnee Mental Health Center, Inc
SW Ohio Consumers for Health Care
Tender Mercies, Inc.
WinMed Health Services
Health Point Family Care
Linda Primrose Barker (Individual Endorser)
Karen K Butler (Individual Endorser)
Janet Grant (Individual Endorser)
Carolyn Martin-Geiman (Individual Endorser)
Rina Saperstein (Individual Endorser)
Columbus Federation of Settlement Houses
South Side Settlement House
Advocates for Ohio's Future
Association of Ohio Health Commissioners
Americans for Prosperity Foundation – OH
Central Community House
Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging
Clintonville Resources Center
Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio
Columbus Coalition for the Homeless
Community Action Organization of Delaware, Madison, & Union Counties
Community Organizing Center
Gladden Community House
Huckleberry House - Sonya Thesing, Executive Director
League of United Latin American Citizens
Living in Family Environments
Lower Lights Christian Health Center
National Association of Social Workers - Ohio Chapter
Near East Health Advisory Committee
Ohio AIDS Coalition, a Division of AIDS Resource Center of Ohio
Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies
Ohio Association of Foodbanks
Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage
Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Service Providers
Ohio Dental Hygiene Association
Ohio Public Health Association
Ohio School-Based Healthcare Association
North Side Health Advisory Committee
Southside Health Advisory Committee
Westside Community Health Advisory Committee
Asian Services in Action, Inc.
The Centers for Families and Children
Community Partners for Affordable Accessible Healthcare
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, Office of Advocacy
Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislative Equality
NE Ohio Consumers for Health Care
Summit County Minority Health Roundtable
United Clevelanders Against Povery
United Pastors in Mission
We Are the Uninsured