Health Equity

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.

While the terms “equity” and “equality” both 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. Everyone starts with a different set of factors in their lives and therefore need different things to succeed, much like this illustration:
Equality vs. Equity illustration

Barriers to Health Equity
Achieving this level of equity is a work in progress. In the current system, our most vulnerable communities are left behind and stuck in the reality of unmet needs. 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 such as transportation and job flexibility also contribute to the oral health inequities.

These barriers and gaps disproportionately harm poor Black and Brown Americans. According to recent research from the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health:
  • 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 have difficulty doing their job due to poor oral health.
  • Nearly four in 10 Black and Latino adults reside in the 14 states where Medicaid’s adult dental benefits cover no services or emergency-only care.
A Conversation with DentaQuest's Ambassador for Black Maternal Health Week
Dr. Amber Bonnaig, DentaQuest’s Dental Director in Georgia and ambassador for Black Maternal Health Week, discusses the importance of dental care during pregnancy, maternal health disparities and potential solutions on the horizon.
Read blog »
line break
Behind the Scenes with DentaQuest's Louisiana Dental Director
DentaQuest’s Louisiana Dental Director, Dr. Damien Cuffie, shares his unique path to dentistry, the role cultural competency and similarity play in health outcomes, and the challenges rural communities face when it comes to oral health.
Read blog »
line break
Health Equity Heroes
The DentaQuest Health Equity Hero award recognizes the community leaders who are inspiring collective action on behalf of our neighbors with the greatest needs and the fewest resources.
Learn more »

The barriers to care play a role in maternal health, as maternal mortality rates in America are the worst in the developed world, with 26.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. While maternal mortality rates fell 44% around the world from 1990-2015, maternal mortality in the U.S. increased by 16.7%, making it the only developed country with a rising maternal mortality rate. The situation is even more dire for Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and twice as likely to lose an infant to premature death.
The connection to oral health is clear - poor oral health raises a pregnant woman’s risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to major complications and even death. It also increases the risk of poor birth outcomes, such as low birth weight or premature birth.

The same populations that face the highest rates of maternal mortality and poor birth outcomes also face higher rates of oral disease. For example, Black women, American Indian/Alaska Native women, low-income women and women who rely on Medicaid for their health insurance are disproportionately likely to suffer from dental disease during pregnancy. These same groups of women are the least likely to be able to access dental care.


Health Equity Heroes
DentaQuest’s corporate citizenship efforts support health equity through a variety of initiatives and services, from donating dollars and time in local communities, to educating providers about new ways to deliver care. Ultimately, our collective work aims to level the playing field so that we all have a chance to live our best lives.