Due to many reasons, oral healthcare has been the most neglected healthcare worldwide. Among these neglections, comes disparities. The disparities in oral health care include the unequal opportunities provided to people to not let them stay healthy. This also makes the underprivileged people more deprived of oral healthcare. When one focuses on reducing these disparities, they tend to give the underprivileged groups equal and fair opportunities to stay healthy. It means that if we provide equal oral health care to everyone, it will remove the disparities related to it.
Common Disparities in Oral Health
Cavities and Racial Groups
As per data from 2011-2016, around 33% of Mexican American children and 28% of black children, between 2 to 5 years of age, have had cavities in their primary teeth. Only 18% of white children have untreated cavities. Additionally, around 70% of Mexican American children, between the ages of 12 to 19 years, had cavities in their permanent teeth. Only 54% of white children have untreated cavities.
In comparison to white adults, around two times, the black or Mexican American adults had untreated cavities. Moreover, almost 9 out of 10 older adults had cavities and almost 1 out of 6 had them untreated.
Family Income and Untreated Cavities
Approximately 17% of children from poor households have their cavities untreated. This is 3 times the percentage from higher-income households. Around 23% of children between 12 to 19 years of age have had untreated cavities. These children also come from low-income families. This is double that the children from higher-income families.
Also, around 40% of adults with less income or no health insurance have untreated cavities. Uninsured adults have untreated cavities twice the times as insured adults.
Education and Untreated Cavities
Education also plays an important role in removing the oral health care disparities. People with education less than high school are likely to have 3 times more untreated cavities than people with higher education. Older adults, above the age of 65 years, with less education, have more untreated cavities. It is more than the ones with education over high school.
Smoking and Untreated Cavities
More than 40% of adults who smoke have untreated cavities in their permanent teeth. This is in comparison to the adults who do not smoke. Moreover, around 17% of the older adults, who have the habit of smoking, have already lost their teeth. It is 3 times more than the older adults who do not have the habit of smoking. The previous fact is the same for adults who have higher education qualifications. Adults who come from high-income households also have better dental health. Complete tooth loss due to various reasons is also called Edentulism.
Disparities in Oral cancer in Adults
Men suffering from head and neck cancers are twice as women suffering from the same form of cancer. This also includes oral and throat cancer. Additionally, the survival rate of 5 years for throat cancers is less with black men than white men. Around 41% of black men have a survival rate of 5 years for oral or throat cancer. Additionally, 62% of white men have a 5-year survival rate for throat cancer.
Disparities in Periodontal or Gum Diseases in Adults
Many children and adults suffer from many kinds of gum diseases at different ages. 42% of adults have some kind of gum disease. This rate increases to 60% if the adults are above 65 years of age. It means adults who are 65 years or above, are more likely to suffer from some form of gum disease. This is in comparison to the 19-25-year-old adults, who have fewer chances of gum diseases.
Also, Mexican Americans, black adults, and adults above 65 years of age suffer from severe gum diseases more than white adults or adults below the age of 65 years. People who smoke are also at higher risk of suffering from serious gum diseases than people who do not.
Remedies for Removal of Disparities
Various government and non-government organizations are working towards the removal of these disparities. They provide equal opportunities to stay healthy. Many government organizations promote two remedies that help prevent cavities while saving money. These remedies are School Sealant programs and water fluoridation.
School Sealant Programs
In this program, the organization provides dental sealants to children who might not receive timely dental care. With this program, 3.4 million cavities can be prevent over 4 years. Thus, various organizations provide dental sealants to children from low-income families. These children do not receive regular dental care.
This program provides fluoride to all community members regardless of age or income. Water fluoridation helps in preventing tooth decay at a very early stage. It also helps in preventing cavities in people. As a result, a lot of money gets saved for families, which people would have been spending on dental care.
Not every family is capable of receiving proper dental care due to many reasons. For example, some people can not afford to pay for dental health care or do not have dental health insurance. Some can not take time off work to receive dental care.
Also, many communities do not get healthy foods or fluoridated water to prevent tooth decay. Some places have no public transport to reach for dental care appointments.
Regular dental care is very important for good oral health. It also helps in finding any dental problems at an early stage, when they are easy to treat. But, many people do not get proper dental health care. They are unable to afford better dental care than other health care facilities. This leads to early tooth decay and several other dental problems.
People must understand that oral healthcare is as important as the health of the rest of the body. Thus, many government and non-government organizations are working to remove these disparities. They are doing it by providing basic dental care to every citizen of the country. Besides other ways, they also provide dental sealants to children and water fluoridation to communities.