Why oral health matters to communities

Good oral health care is essential for the overall well-being of individuals and communities.

Poor oral health raises barriers to education, employment, and other opportunities to be healthy and productive. The lack of money, services, and information have prevented many families, communities, and individuals from accessing affordable, quality, and culturally and linguistically appropriate oral health care. Further, our environments often don’t promote strong oral health practices, which means we all suffer.

Our oral health is influenced by many different factors from our environment and job, to the ability to travel to and from a provider’s office. When our environment supports our overall health, it also impacts our overall health. Oral health and overall health are closely linked. When the mouth is healthy, the body is more likely to be healthy, too.

There are links between oral health, overall health, and our surroundings and opportunities:

  • People with poor oral health face higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and other conditions. People with visible signs of oral disease are negatively judged and socially stigmatized.
  • People with untreated dental problems often have difficulty finding jobs, which lowers employment.
  • Poor oral health translates into lost earning potential and leads to increased health care costs borne by society.

Oral Health Equity

When it comes to oral health, different people have different needs. Some people can make dental appointments on a weekday and others can only go on nights and weekends. Some people know their dentist speaks their language, but others can’t make that assumption. Some people can get in the car and drive to their dental office, while others rely on buses or trains to get to a dental provider.

A one-size-fits-all approach may seem like equal access, but it doesn’t work in practice. We need to make sure that all people have what they need to support their access to good oral health.

Healthier mouths mean healthier people.

And healthier people mean stronger communities.
With good oral health, our good overall health becomes possible. More importantly, our societal well-being is strengthened—from the health of our communities to the state of our economies.

2019 Policy Priorities

1. Increasing access to culturally and linguistically appropriate oral health care services

2. Increasing awareness of the harmful effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on oral health

3. Expanding oral health access through virtual dental homes

4. Improving access and utilization in oral health care for adults

5. Increasing access to oral health through expanded health care services