July 22, 2022
Oral Health Care: Addressing Barriers
Oral health care isn’t accessible to all people in the United States. Many people want to to visit the dentist but face too many barriers. In Atlanta, in can be up to a 10-mile trip to get there. There’s also the fear of ending up with costly bills. These barriers are on top of larger societal barriers like:
- Shortage of dentists
- Low Medicaid reimbursement rates
- Unwillingness of dentists to participate in Medicaid
It became clear to Dr. Charles Moore that we need a larger solution. So he worked with his Clinical Scholars team members Dr. Hope Bussenius and Dr. David Reznik to lead community based change to tackle this wicked problem and build a Culture of Health.
I started by looking at the zip codes of the patients coming in with advanced stage cancer. When I drove to those areas, I saw pockets of concentrated poverty. I talked—and more importantly listened—to residents to learn about their lives. I would park under bridges and outside drug houses, offering screenings for head and neck cancer out of the back of my car.
It turned out that people wanted to visit the dentist, but they faced many barriers. Often, it could be as much as a 10-mile trip to get there. Not only were there transportation issues, but there were also fears of ending up with costly bills. Combined with larger societal barriers like a shortage of dentists, low Medicaid reimbursement rates, and an unwillingness of dentists to participate in Medicaid, it became clear that we needed a larger solution than exams out of the back of my Subaru.
Seeking to take the work to a larger scale, I teamed up with colleagues David Reznik, a dentist, and Hope Bussenius, a nurse practitioner, in Clinical Scholars. Together, our aim is to address barriers to accessing quality oral health care services so that communities throughout Georgia, regardless of income, can live and thrive. In each of our roles, we see every day how poor oral health can devastate lives: unnecessary tooth decay, expensive trips to the emergency department, and deadly advancement of oral cancers.
Read how our team led community based change to tackle this wicked problem and build a Culture of Health.