Back in 2018, 65.7% of adult people visited a dental clinic, and 45.8% had permanent teeth removed due to gum disease, highlighting the prevalence of dental issues among Florida residents. With a lack of affordable and high-quality dental care across the state, there’s no question that something needs to be done to improve the oral health of Florida’s residents. From how recently proposed legislation aims to help to how nonprofit organizations are working towards a change, here’s what you need to know.
A Lack Of Accessible Dental Care
Along with the stark statistics regarding Floridians and dental care, further evidence highlights the lack of dental care across the state as well. For instance, the average number of natural teeth available among older adults ages 60 and above was a mere 15.2% out of 32 teeth. 19.2% among them didn’t have any teeth in 2015—2016, according to oral health data on the state. With Florida being notorious for bad oral health, however, it’s important to recognize why, as many families have not only limited access to quality dental care, but many are unable to afford it.
With missing teeth being an issue for many Floridians, dental implants are just one solution. Being a necessity when you have missing teeth in order to prevent further issues down the line, dental implants pose many benefits to those who are able to get them, as they work to improve chewing function, and tend to be more natural and comfortable than dentures. Unfortunately, dental implants are oftentimes expensive — especially for those without dental insurance. While many health care providers offer flexible payment options along with treatment options, recently proposed legislation works are ongoing to further address issues throughout the state.
Finding A Solution
When it comes to finding a solution for Florida residents and bad oral health throughout the state, a recently proposed bill may be able to change things. HB 997, filed by Rep. Melony Bell, and SB 1444, filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, will both aid in eliminating hurdles to oral care, particularly for people who can afford it. For example, these bills will increase the accessibility of quality dental care by expanding the use of mobile dental units. Additionally, the proposed legislation will also aid in removing barriers for residents to have proper dental care in the settings of health access — for instance, this will let dental hygienists apply temporary fillings, which will subsequently prevent the development of tooth decay. Furthermore, the bills would also eliminate the requirement of children having to have an exam by a dentist after cleaning in a health access setting in order to have another cleaning. The bills will also make changes to the dental hygienist’s exam as well, which will work to strengthen the workforce. Whether having essential dental work in Orlando or a clean and polished procedure in Tampa, Floridians deserve access to reliable dental services at affordable rates.
How Nonprofits Are Making A Change
In addition to proposed legislation that would work to help Floridians statewide, it’s also worth mentioning that nonprofit organizations are also working to make a change in regards to the state’s dental healthcare issues. One nonprofit dental clinic in New Port Richey, for instance, has greatly helped Florida’s veterans with dental work, as most don’t actually qualify for Veteran Affairs dental benefits. In addition to aiding human trafficking and domestic violence survivors, Smile Faith Dental in Pasco county helps veterans by offering quality free, and low-cost dental work, according to Dr. Mike O’Carroll, the Vice President of Operations at Smile Faith Foundation. Through donations and partnerships, one way that the nonprofit is further making a change is through dental implants. With dentists from all over the country traveling to Tampa to learn how to place dental implants, Dr. O’Carroll notes that the dentists pay for the course, and are able to practice on veterans that need the work.
Florida is well known for having poor oral hygiene rates, in addition to unaffordable, inaccessible dental care. With the help of nonprofits aiding vulnerable populations and the benefits of proposed legislation, there’s no question that changes are being made across the state.