Dental health and hygiene are extremely important to overall health. But most public and private health insurance in the United States do not cover dental care under their plans. They either simply don’t cover it or require users to buy separate dental insurance. This is costly and adds to the struggle that many Americans face in paying for healthcare.
In this video, a charity dental clinic in Joplin, MI is shown as one of the solutions provided by organizations that are trying to help. However, while the clinic makes an immediate difference for the approximately thousand people seen that day, it cannot solve the overall problem of healthcare access on its own.
For the clinic, Al Jazeera reports that dentists and dental hygienists volunteered their time and expertise to work in a converted college gymnasium. They cleaned and filled teeth and extracted those that needed to be pulled. The people who came to the clinic came because it was their only affordable option for healthcare.
Many were retired and on a fixed income while others just couldn’t afford the other options. While this is a very noble thing for these professionals to do, it is not sustainable. Even the best family orthodontist needs to be paid for the work in order to continue to do it. So while the charity does help people in solid, life-changing ways, it can’t be the only access to dental care that these people have.
Healthcare needs to be affordable and dental care needs to be included as part of general healthcare.
Dental health impacts the entire body. If a person’s teeth and gums get infected, that infection can easily spread to other parts of the body, including the nearby brain. But even if things aren’t that dire, there is still an impact to be made. People need a wide variety of nutrients in their diet and often those come from foods that need to be chewed.
If someone is missing teeth or has ongoing tooth pain, they aren’t going to be able to chew. This doesn’t mean they will starve, but it does mean that they will need softer food options. And those softer options often have fewer nutrients than the ones that need to be chewed. Fewer nutrients in the body mean that the body won’t have the fuel it needs to run. This can have a long term effect that could be prevented with regular dental care.