More than 3.5 million Pennsylvanians — about 27% of state 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 renting a four-bedroom home in the city of Lancaster costing over $18,000 a year – not to mention current inflation rates – preventative dental care is often not a priority; but it should be.
A great deal of research shows that the health of the mouth is linked to the health of the body, and that taking care of your oral health appropriately and consistently – brushing and flossing at least twice a day, replacing your toothbrush teeth every three to four months, eating less sugary foods and drinks, and visiting the dentist twice a year – can help prevent common dental problems like cavities, gum disease, receding gums and root infections.
Research also shows that social determinants of health like income, housing, education, job security, access to food, and race can affect a person’s ability to get essential medical and dental care.
As we better understand how these social and economic factors affect our oral and overall health as a community, we must all 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’re partnering with Highmark Wholecare to provide free dental care to children and young adults 20 and under in Pennsylvania.
The “Healthy Smiles for Miles” tour, which includes a mobile dental unit, stops in Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Reading.
This leg of the tour will provide on-site dental care through pre-arranged appointments to approximately 600 children and young people insured by Highmark Wholecare. Here, volunteer dentists and dental hygienists give their time selflessly to provide essential 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 around 400 young people receiving care.
Regardless of their background or socioeconomic status, everyone should have the opportunity to perform at their best. Our mobile dental clinics are just one small step to help reduce disparities in the social determinants of health and ensure those in need in our region have healthy smiles and bodies for years to come.
With approximately 1 in 4 Pennsylvanians insured by Medicaid, the likelihood of knowing someone who needs help is high. I’m proud to be part of a company that strives to make the places we live and work stronger for everyone.
I encourage you to join us by getting involved in organizations that address these disparities in your own communities. By working together, we can increase access to quality health care, address food insecurity, provide affordable housing, and ensure access to transportation.
Roosevelt Allen, DDS, is the chief dentist at United Concordia Dental, a national dental solutions partner in Camp Hill, Cumberland County. He leads United Concordia’s oral and global health efforts, overseeing professional affairs, dental directors, and clinical and dental policy.