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Some dentists aim to bring care to underrepresented populations
Updated: 9/30/2013 3:44:55 PM

There are certain populations who don

There are certain populations that do not have access to proper dental care, and some institutions are making it their prime objective to generate a strong dental culture in certain underrepresented groups. By promoting the general welfare of people in dental straits, these factions also hope to inspire young dentists who are just beginning their profession to keep the striking disparities in mind as they grow in their careers.

Bringing care to the Wamponoag people
In the American Indian/Alaska Native communities, poor oral health care has been a growing problem for many years. A recent study has shown that, in the U.S., the population has the highest rate of dental caries, which is decay in the teeth or jaw bones. There are many reasons supporting this trend, but a lack of access to dental providers is high on the list.

According to Indian Country Today, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds the Dental Pipeline National Learning Institute, a program that aims to increase the enrollment and retention in dental schools of students from underrepresented cultures. The program is now seeking to provide care to the Aquinnah Wampanoag community, who have been living on an expanse of land around Martha's Vineyard for more than 10,000 years.

"These are the people who greeted the pilgrims," Brian Swann, the director of the program, told the news source. "The Wamponoag people have also had horrible experiences with oral health due to poor access to care and living with pain and tooth loss from untreated dental problems."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Healthy, children in the American Indian/Alaska Native populations aged 2 to 4 years old have five times the rate of dental decay compared to all children in the U.S. Periodontal disease is also 2.5 times greater in the minority group as compared to the rest of the country's population.

Another underserved community
The elderly are also a group of people who are at a high risk for dental maladies but who do not often receive proper care. According to Senior Mobile Dental, the rate of periodontal infections and the diagnosis of oral and pharyngeal cancers is higher among seniors than for other age groups. Seniors who are 65 years and older are seven times more likely to develop oral cancer than younger patients.

Most older adults pay for their dental services out of pocket because Medicare does not cover dental care, except in some rare cases. Usually, when an employer offers dental insurance for an employee's benefit, the coverage ends upon his or her retirement. People who are in financial need or who have no dental insurance may benefit from looking into discount dental plans, which are customized to fit the needs of each individual patient.

© 2013 Brafton Inc.


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