Access to Dental Insurance and Oral Health Inequities in the United States

While the oral health status of the United States (U.S.) population has improved over the years, racial/ethnic inequities are pervasive with Black Americans carrying a greater burden of oral diseases in most measured outcomes. Access to dental care is a major structural and societal determinant of oral health inequities rooted in structural racism. From post-Civil War-era to present day, this essay presents a series of examples of racist policies that have shaped access to dental insurance for Black Americans both directly and indirectly. Additionally, this essay explains the unique challenges of Medicare and Medicaid highlighting the specific disparities that these public insurance programs face, and proposes policy recommendations aimed to reduce racial/ethnic inequities in dental coverage and access to advance the nation's oral health with comprehensive dental benefits in public insurance programs.