Addressing the Root: Dismantling Systemic Barriers to Oral Health Equity

Publisher: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
Number of Pages: 31

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Oral health is essential to overall health. Poor oral health can contribute to chronic disease, chronic pain, difficulties obtaining employment, and school absences. For example, periodontal disease (gum disease) is related to higher risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and individuals who have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and/or obesity are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease. These same chronic conditions persist most often among Black communities, Indigenous communities, and other communities of color.

The hidden costs of poor oral health include being stigmatized, feeling embarrassed in social settings, and challenges finding employment. Studies have shown that people judge an individual’s social skills, intellectual achievement, and attractiveness based on their dental appearance. Nearly of third of Californians report that they avoid smiling due to the condition of their mouth and teeth and 1 in 4 feel embarrassed due to the condition of their mouth and teeth. Additionally, 1 in 4 Californians feel that the appearance of their mouth and teeth negatively affects their ability to interview for a job, rising to more than 1 in 3 among Californians with low-incomes.