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Kent County report affirms national oral health care crisis
Updated: 11/11/2013 5:29:53 PM
 

Kent County report affirms national oral health care crisis

Oral health care in Grand Rapids is looking just as dire as the rest of the nation, according to a recent report by the Kent County Oral Health Coalition.

Crisis in Grand Rapids
The American Dental Association has already cited a divide in dental care in the U.S., with lower-income Americans receiving significantly less dental care than their middle- and higher-income peers. Furthermore, a study from the National Academy for State Health Policy recently estimated that more than 85 million Americans were without any form of dental insurance.

The Coalition report, which looked at the dental health of Kent County in Michigan, seemed only to add to the sense of urgency facing American dental care. According to The Grand Rapids Press, the study found that 26 percent of adults had not seen a dentist in the past year, and that 26 percent of all adults surveyed also had untreated dental issues.

Many of those patients have little or no dental insurance. Of those who had not seen a dentist, 48 percent had no form of coverage. Additionally, only 55 percent of low-income residents were receiving need services in Grand Rapids, which was still much better than the 29 percent of county residents receiving needed care.

Shifting focus
The Coalition had been founded in 2011 to focus on children, but the widespread issues of dental health quickly expanded the scope of the organization.

"We came together to address access to care for children. Very quickly, we realized you cannot improve a child's oral health without improving the adults' oral health, as well," said Colette Smiley, D.D.S. and co-chairman of the coalition, quoted by the news source. "It quickly transitioned to an organization focused on oral health of the greater community."

Preventable problems
Among other problems, the gap in provided care resulted in 7,667 emergency room visits in 2011 for problems that were otherwise preventable. This issue of missed preventable care has prompted the coalition to shift its efforts toward increasing access to dental care and providing education about good dental health practices.

While many areas offer free or reduced-cost dental clinics for patients with little or no dental insurance, these locations are often slammed with patients, making dental care difficult to come by. One potential solution for families without coverage is a dental plan, which assists in the payment of basic dental care services.

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