“I always talked with my hand covering my face,” says Patsy Jackson. When asked by providers at Native American Health Center why she did this, “I told them: ‘I have shame about my teeth.’ They said, ‘We can help you with that.’” Patsy feared she couldn’t afford it. “I was working at a gas station job.”
Oral disease in children and adults is higher in low income communities, and two out of three people with Medi-Cal or HealthPAC coverage can’t visit a dentist due to lack of clinic capacity. People with oral health are more job-ready, have better overall health, and have greater self-esteem. Alameda Health Consortium (AHC) member clinics offer dental services, but some clinics are closed to new dental patients due to the shortage of dental stations available. At other sites, this capacity challenge has patients waiting months to get in for an appointment.
“When I first got into recovery, a lot of my teeth were broken…today I have a complete upper and a partial bottom. This allowed me to get out and seek employment, seek help, to talk to people, to not be ashamed anymore. Dental health is important, not only because of our need to survive, but for our own self-esteem. This type of benefit is important, especially for us who are low income who are struggling from an addiction or trying to put our lives together. To have (dental care) allows us that first step into society. It lets us know that no matter what, we have support. Even if we don’t have any money, even if we are on social security, this lets us know above all, we still have access to health.”
Alameda Health Consortium asks the community to step up and speak out to support efforts to build and expand dental services at its member clinics. Everyone deserves to see a dentist at least once a year. Typically dentists recommend coming in every six months for dental care, yet two-thirds of AHC member clinic patients can’t access this care even once a year. Help us promote timely, accessible dental care for AHC member patients.