The issue of access to dental care — or the lack thereof — is getting its fair share of attention in organized dentistry and throughout the communities.
The access-to-care issue (or “barriers to care” as some organizations refer to it) involves this question: how to best provide dental care to people with lesser economic means, those who live in remote rural areas, seniors, or other underserved or vulnerable Americans who may not be able to access traditional private dental practices or community health clinics?
Ongoing debates are happening in California and across the United States. This is a complex topic because it is a complex problem. States are trying different approaches and a “one-size-fits-all” model will most likely not prevail in the immediate future based on differences between states, not to mention the residents they serve.
I was recently asked by the California Dental Association to chair its Taskforce on Workforce. Several years ago, funding for the Taskforce was approved by the CDA House of Delegates. The Taskforce report has now been released, and I direct you to the CDA's website where CDA members may access the report. There is much in the report that should be digested by all members of our profession. The committee members plus staff worked on the project for many hours.
The process will continue to be long and surely will not be solved overnight. Dental professionals and leaders in organized dentistry are weighing in with their views. Any recommendations for change in our state will ultimately be reviewed and voted upon by the CDA House of Delegates.
The bottom line is that everyone involved in this issue should look at the evidence. Examine the research and findings of experts who are studying the issue. Whatever your personal position is on this complex issue, I invite you to be at the table. Stay up to date on the evidence. Learn a little more about different models of care. Get involved in CDA and other dental organizations. Discuss the issue with colleagues at local dental society meetings. The CDA has published a list of a series of town hall meetings. I encourage you to attend.
Leadership is one of the core values of the Dugoni School of Dentistry. One of the phrases we often hear around our school is that as a dentist, you are a leader simply by the nature of your role. You are a leader to your patients, family, friends, staff, and professional colleagues as well as in the community.
It is important for dentists to stay engaged with the complex issue of access to care.