|Everyone deserves to be healthy — a healthy mind, a healthy mouth, a healthy body. But if we really mean everyone, health equity must be a priority.
You may have heard the term “health equity” and wondered why we use the word “equity” instead of “equality.” While both words denote fairness, equality indicates that everyone is treated the same way. On the other hand, equity refers to an environment in which people are treated differently with the intention of reaching the same goal for all people. Everyone starts with a different set of factors in their lives and therefore need different things to succeed, much like this illustration:
Barriers to Health Equity
Achieving this level of equity is still a work in progress. Our most vulnerable communities are left behind in the current system, stuck in the reality of unmet needs. In fact, as of 2019, more than 74 million Americans didn’t have access to dental coverage — three times the number of people who are medically uninsured.
In some cases, lack of coverage is due to location. More than 45 million Americans live in areas that do not have an adequate number of dentists to serve the local population. And 43% of Americans living in rural areas lack access to dental care. Socioeconomic barriers, like transportation and job flexibility, contribute to the oral health inequities, too.
These barriers and gaps disproportionately harm poor Black and Brown Americans. For example, according to recent research from the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health:
(DentaQuest is affiliated with CareQuest Institute, an industry advancing nonprofit.)
- Black adults are 68% more likely than white adults to have an unmet dental need.
- Latino adults are 52% more likely than white adults to report having difficulty doing their job due to poor oral health.
- Nearly 4 in 10 Black and Latino adults reside in the 14 states where Medicaid’s adult dental benefits cover no services or emergency-only care.