Kaiser Family Foundation "Oral Histories: Report From a Dental Fair (Virginia Eastern Shore) for Uninsured Adults"
In interviews with patients, dental professionals, and fair organizers, these key issues emerged:
• Low-income adults lack access to health and dental coverage. Although most of the people
attending the fair were employed, few had dental coverage and most lacked any health
coverage. Without insurance, dental care – even preventive care and cleanings – is unaffordable
for low-income adults. Often, they seek care only when their pain is no longer bearable.
• Uninsured adults have vast unmet oral health needs. Most interviewees had not received dental
care in over a year, and for some it had been many years. All had routine care needs and a
large number had urgent needs. Nearly $500,000 worth of oral health care was provided at the
weekend fair, including 1,263 tooth extractions. Nearly 30 patients had between one-third and
all of their teeth extracted. Many of the teeth that were extracted could have been saved with
treatment, but recognizing that access to follow-up care was unlikely, the providers’ primary
objectives were to alleviate their patients’ pain and prevent infection.
• Untreated dental problems have serious health, employment, and social consequences.
Beyond causing pain, dental problems exacerbated patients’ chronic health conditions. Lost
hours of work due to mouth pain, the negative impact of poor or missing teeth on employability,
and social stigma also burdened those with untreated oral health needs.
• The dental fair is a band-aid, not a cure. While providing critical help to underserved
communities, broader solutions are needed to ensure timely and adequate access to coverage
and oral health care for low-income and uninsured Americans.
This publication (#7930) is available on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website at www.kff.org.
A companion video is available at http://www.kff.org/healthreform/hr090909video.cfm.
Virginia is 95% fluoridated: "'It’s 2009 and dental disease
is everywhere and we can go anywhere in this state and set up a
project like this and [people] will line up for five or six hours and
we’ll do the same thing. That’s notthe answer.'
Terry Dickinson,Dental fair organizer"