Coloradans call dental health important but cite obstacles / Public News Service

Oral health has been called the window to your overall health. Oral problems can alert providers to underlying medical conditions, and regular visits to the dentist are considered essential for controlling bacteria.

A New Colorado Consumer Health Initiative investigation showed that while many Coloradans want to maintain good oral health, they face many obstacles.

Priya Telang, group communications manager, said cost is the biggest hurdle.

“People most affected by lack of access to affordable dental care are black or Indigenous people of color, low-income people and rural dwellers, compared to white and affluent Coloradans,” Telang pointed out. .

Despite their desire for dental care, Coloradans report high rates of poor or below average oral health, including mouth pain, discomfort about the appearance of the mouth, and changes in their daily lives caused by their dental health issues. Three out of four Colorado residents said going to the dentist is simply too expensive. Other top concerns include lack of childcare, lack of insurance, and difficulty finding a provider.

Almost half of Coloradans surveyed said that when they needed immediate care, they were told they would have to wait more than a month for an appointment. Others report that wait times for routine cleanings were at least two months. A common assumption among oral health providers and insurers is that people don’t want to prioritize their oral health. But Telang said the survey results differed.

“About 74% of respondents said oral health care is very important,” Telang reported. “And most of the time, people said they couldn’t take time off from work, or lack insurance or income.”

Telang hopes the survey will be helpful in educating state lawmakers and finding policy solutions to remove barriers to care for those most at risk. Telang added that dental providers can also play a role. Many Colorado residents seeking care report facing stigma and judgment from dental staff.

“About a quarter of respondents cited fear or anxiety related to their dental provider because they either have poor dental health or have been treated differently because of their race, ethnicity or language,” Telang said.

Disclosure: The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative contributes to our fund for consumer issues, health issues, and human rights/racial justice reporting. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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