|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 exactly the same. 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.
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, more than 74 million Americans don’t have access to dental coverage — three times the number of people who are medically uninsured. In some cases, it’s 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 percent of Americans living in rural areas lack access to dental care. Socioeconomic barriers, like transportation and job flexibility, contribute to the lack of dental coverage.
These barriers and gaps disproportionately harm poor, Black and Brown Americans.
- Black adults are 68 percent more likely to have an unmet dental need than white adults.
- Latino adults are 52 percent 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.