WASHINGTON – Limited access to dental care has caused black men to have almost twice as many untreated oral health problems as white men,health care advocates said Thursday.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies' Health Policy Institute released a report titled “Visible Differences: Improving the Oral Health of African American Males” at a news conference. The report detailed the inequity of health care in the United States and gave policy recommendations for decreasing the disparity.
Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said black males,especially those with low incomes,are a particularly neglected group when it comes to oral care.
The report said 28 percent of white men have untreated dental decay compared to more than 50 percent of black men. Black men also have the highest incidence of oral cancer. Once they are stricken by oral cancer,their survival rate is lower.
“Oral health is essential to the quality of life,” said Dr. Ronald E. Inge,an associate executive director with the American Dental Association
Carmona said the effects of poor oral health not only inhibit someone's appearance but also his or her ability to eat and socialize.
To lessen the negative effects of poor oral health on black men,the report advocates equal access to health care. Before black males can enjoy the same oral health benefits as many other Americans,the financial barriers to dental care must be reduced,according to the report.
“I stand ready to do whatever is necessary to move this agenda forward,” Carmona said.
Removing these obstructions might include using federal welfare money to help men who are seeking employment to pay for oral health care or expanding the dental coverage under programs such as Medicaid and Medicare,the report said.
The report also calls for national standards that would lead to improved dental care access for black men as well as efforts to increase the diversity of the dental workforce.
Carmona said that,although 12 percent of the U.S. population is black,only 3.3 percent of U.S. dentists are black.
Inge said the ADA believes the dental profession should reflect the population.
Eric Williams,a power forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers,said blacks need to see a side of dentistry “beyond the pain of getting your teeth cleaned.” Williams is the founder of the Believe in Me Foundation,which provides education and information about children's oral health to families.
The Joint Center conducts research and analysis on policy issues of concern to blacks and other minorities.