UCLA Report Identifies Barriers to Oral Health Care for Low-Income Californians

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) recently released a policy brief detailing barriers to accessing oral health care in California, particularly among low-income residents who face financial and other barriers to access. The report, utilizing data from the 2018 and 2019 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), identifies the following main findings:

  • There are fewer dentists per capita in some parts of the state.
  • About 79 percent of the state’s dentists do not provide care for low-income patients who rely on Medi-Cal.
  • Only eight percent of the state’s dentists are Latino or Black, compared with 60 percent of the state’s low-income adult population overall.
  • 39 percent of low-income California adults report that their oral health was “fair” or “poor,” and 41 percent reported not having visited the dentist within the past year.

The report’s authors also identify a looming shortage of dental providers with nearly a quarter of dentists over the age of 60 and nearing retirement age. UCLA researchers offer possible suggestions to address barriers to accessing oral health services, including expanding the roles of dental hygienists and dental therapists, encouraging dentists to use “mobile clinics” to bring oral health services to underserved areas, and offering at least some appointments through web-enabled devices for people who cannot immediately visit a dentist’s office.

Additional information on the UCLA policy brief is available here.