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The Challenge of Meeting the Dental Care Needs of Low-Income California Adults With the Current Dental Workforce

June 21, 2021

Policy Brief

Authors: Nadereh Pourat, Ph.D., Paula Ortega-Verdugo, Maria Ditter, Dr.med., M.P.H.

Summary: Access to oral health care, particularly for low-income individuals who face financial and other barriers to access, depends in part on the availability and practice characteristics of dentists. Authors measured both the need for oral health care among low-income California adults and the characteristics of practicing dentists using multiple sources, including the California Health Interview Survey and Dental Board of California data.

Findings: Authors found a low supply of working dentists in several regions that had high rates of low-income adults; a small proportion of dentists who provided dental visits under Medi-Cal; a significant number of dentists nearing retirement age; and an underrepresentation of Latinx and Black dentists in comparison to the low-income communities they serve. The findings presented in this policy brief highlight the need for policies that improve access, including increasing the participation of dentists in Medi-Cal, training more dentists from underrepresented communities of color, and increasing the capacity for dental care in areas with few dentists.

This study uses 2018 and 2019 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data. 

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