Dental care is one of the sticky wickets in the US healthcare system, with a large gap between those who are covered and the services many cannot afford to maintain a basic level of dental comfort or a cosmetic standard in order to get jobs.
But even as dental care access reaches a critical mass in the US, the gap is widening — and as traditional benefits packages disappear and fewer people are covered under work plans, dental care is poised to become a large issue for a growing number of Americans.
The New York Times explored the dental care crisis in a recent article titled “Sharp Cuts in Dental Coverage for Adults on Medicaid,” and the fact that half of states only cover pain relief and emergency dental care instead of workable solutions that leave Medicaid recipients with workable, usable teeth and allow them to live free of pain.
Advocacy group Health Care For All’s Courtney Chelo spoke to the paper about how lack of dental care access impedes economic progress, saying:
“A lot of folks are out of work … If you have a gap in the front of your mouth because you had a tooth extracted, it’s much more difficult to get a job.”
Dr. Michael Wasserman is the president-elect of the Massachusetts Dental Society, and one in five of his patients is on Medicaid. Wasserman said that while current gains in dental care access are incomplete, every little bit helps:
“Of course we would have also liked to see the back teeth covered … It’s nice to smile; it’s nice to chew. But we have to take what we can get at this point.”
It seems that as the cost of health and dental care rises and fewer companies willingly offer coverage, the problem will only get worse — have you suffered a lack of access to dentists in recent years and lived with the painful consequences?