In Dentists Katie Adams 

Significant oral health access disparities affect low-income Calfornians, study finds

Low-income Californians are less likely to undergo routine dental care and more likely to visit dental offices for discomfort-related issues than higher-income residents, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The discovery is based on an analysis of the center's 2017 and 2018 California Health Interview Survey data. The study revealed that 59 percent of the group with the lowest income had visited a dentist in the last year, compared to 80 percent for Californians with higher incomes. It also found that 41 percent of residents in the lowest-income group visited dental offices for specific issues, compared to 23 percent in the higher-income group.

The disparities facing low-income Californians remain a problem even for low-income residents with private dental insurance, as 75 percent of Californians who have private dental insurance in the lowest income group saw a dentist in the past year, compared to 85 percent for higher-income residents.

"Our findings indicate that dental insurance improves access to dental care for all, just as the rising tide lifts all boats, but income disparities in access still remain," Nadereh Pourat, PhD, the study's lead author said in a news release. "Oral health is an integral part of overall health, and the lowest-income individuals have the least access and suffer the consequences. It is important to break down silos that perpetuate disparities in access to dental care. We can start by promoting parity in dental insurance."

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