LYONS, NEBRASKA — Affecting not only physical, but mental and emotional well-being, oral health is a critical and complex issue that spans beyond straight teeth and a white smile, according to a white paper released today by the Center for Rural Affairs.
“More than a Smile: An Examination of Rural Dental Health Care in Nebraska,” authored by Lauren Taylor, with assistance from Jordan Rasmussen, seeks to raise an understanding of the link between oral and total health and identifies primary concerns about dental health care in rural areas nationwide, with an emphasis on Nebraska.
“These barriers to dental health care access are multifaceted and are often exacerbated for rural residents,” said Rasmussen, policy manager for the Center for Rural Affairs. “While strides have been made to improve access to dental care, disparities continue in rural America.”
Among the issues highlighted are rural dental health care delivery, the need for more dental health providers, insurance and Medicaid coverage. The intersection between oral health and total health are particularly heightened as the state of Nebraska proposes to implement complex requirements for those seeking to access dental care under the state's Medicaid program.
The white paper notes there have been efforts by the state of Nebraska, legislators, providers, public health professionals, colleges, and communities to combat the barriers by introducing solutions to address the limitations.
“Improving access to dental health care and the status of oral health in rural America cannot be achieved with one policy or program,” Rasmussen said. “It will require lawmakers, health care professionals, and advocates to overcome the current disparities in dental health and care.”