More than 3.5 million Pennsylvanians — about 27% of the state’s residents — are enrolled in Medicaid. A family of four is eligible for this medical assistance program if they have an annual gross household income of less than $36,908. With the average cost of rent for a four-bedroom house in Lancaster city costing more than $18,000 annually — not to mention current inflation rates — preventive dental care often isn’t a priority; but it should be.
Plenty of research shows that the health of the mouth is tied to the health of the body, and that taking good and consistent care of your oral health — brushing and flossing at least twice a day, replacing your toothbrush every three to four months, consuming fewer sugary foods and drinks, and visiting your dentist twice a year — can help avoid common dental issues like cavities, gum disease, receding gums and root infections.
Research also shows social determinants of health like income, housing, education, job security, food access and race can impact a person’s ability to get essential medical and dental care.
As we gain a better understanding of how these social and economic factors affect our oral and overall health as a community, we all need to come together to address these inequities.
At United Concordia Dental, we are committed to doing our part to increase access to quality dental care. This month, we are partnering with Highmark Wholecare to bring free dental care to children and young adults ages 20 and younger in Pennsylvania.
The “Healthy Smiles for Miles” tour, which features a mobile dental care unit, is making stops in Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Reading.
This leg of the tour will provide on-site dental care through prearranged appointments to about 600 children and youth insured by Highmark Wholecare. Here, volunteer dentists and dental hygienists selflessly give their time to deliver critical dental care — including exams, cleanings, X-rays and fluoride applications — to those in need.
In June, the tour kicked off with stops in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Lancaster and York, with an estimated 400 youth receiving care.
Regardless of background or socioeconomic status, everyone should have the opportunity to be their best selves. Our mobile dental clinics are just a small step in helping to address disparities in social determinants of health and ensuring those in need in our region have healthy smiles — and bodies — for years to come.
With roughly 1 in 4 Pennsylvania residents insured by Medicaid, the likelihood of knowing someone who needs help is great. I’m proud to be part of a company that is working to make the places where we live and work stronger for everyone.
I encourage you to join us by getting involved in organizations that are tackling these disparities in your own communities. By working together, we can increase access to quality health care, address food insecurities, provide affordable housing and ensure access to transportation.
Roosevelt Allen, DDS, is chief dental officer at United Concordia Dental, a national dental solutions partner in Camp Hill, Cumberland County. He leads United Concordia’s oral and overall health efforts, overseeing professional affairs, dental directors and clinical and dental policy.