We’re all well aware of how crucial oral care is for our overall health. Just by looking into a patient’s mouth, dental professionals are able to identify and attend to both current and possible complications in their patient’s health.
But what about those that aren’t able to access dental health care?
In the United States, the African American community is disproportionately affected by poor oral health due to a mixture of systemic issues and the community’s cultural response to being discriminated against in medical settings, which severely limits their opportunities to access proper dental care.
How did this issue become so prevalent in the Black community? And how can we, as dental professionals, assist our community in overcoming it?
The Negative Effects of Racism and Poverty on Black Dental Health
In 2020, approximately 20% of Black Americans were living under the poverty line.
Our community has a lot more barriers to surmount in order to receive proper dental healthcare. Lack of access to insurance has a huge effect on African Americans; almost 5 million Black Americans were uninsured just last year.
These are just some of the ways in which our community is affected by lack of healthcare:
Insurance instability: did you know you can be denied access to dental care, even if you currently have insurance, for not beinga able to afford health insurance in the past?
Discrimination: almost one-third of Black Americans have experienced racial discrimination when seeking healthcare, which has created the cultural response of avoiding receiving important health services, including dental care.
Poor childhood dental health: over half of Black children suffer from tooth decay, and the average age for the first dental visit for a Black child is 12 years old.
Common Dental Issues in the Black Community
Because of both our lack of access to healthcare and our African descendance, Black Americans are more vulnerable to certain oral diseases than other communities.
A particular genetic condition, called localized aggressconditioniodontitis, is known to affect Black children of West African descent– the descendance of most Black Americans. This can lead to periodontitis, which is a chronic health condition that has symptoms such as receding gums, bone and nerve damage, and tooth loss.
Another condition, which most people wouldn’t think to relate to dental healthcare, is diabetes. Black adults are 60% more likely than White adults to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and lack of dental care can affect the way in which they are able to regulate their glucose levels.
How Dental Professionals Can Help Our Community
The best way to aid the Black community in overcoming this dental crisis is education.
Because of our society’s systemic racism, Black Americans are often left behind in terms of healthcare education. This means that, sometimes, the way in which we express togetherness and love can be unhealthy and excessive.
Yes, we love to indulge on Grandma’s pie and Uncle’s seasoned pork and greens, but we have to better understand what is suitable for a healthy lifestyle.
Another way is accessibility. By providing more avenues and opportunities for our community to receive dental care, we can open the doors for more trust in patients and better care in providers.
As the Geriatric Toothfairy and co-founder of the National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference and the American Mobile & Teledentistry Alliance, it is incredibly important for me to not only help my patients, but also help other dental professionals provide the best possible care they can.
With the aid of my Mobile Dental Consultation for your teledentistry or mobile dentistry business, we can come together to end the dental health crisis in our community.