Dental TalkHealth and Wellness

Dental Talk featuring Fredrick Clark, DDS

Crop man examining oral cavity of young African-American man working in in dental clinic with assistant.

“Dental Talk” is the brainchild of Black Men In Publisher and Founder Gary A. Johnson, Sr.  Gary wants to prove that one person can make a difference in society and in one’s life.

“Dental Talk” will feature commentary and interviews by Fredrick Clark, DDS.  Dr. Clark is a Microbiologist and an active advocate focusing on the health disparities in the African American community.  This page will also feature relevant articles by contributing authors on this and related topics.

Check out this relevant article by Sally Writes

Oral Health Disparities Continue To Affect African Americans

“People who have the least access to preventive services and dental treatment have higher rates of oral disease,” as found by researchers of the Healthy People 2020 initiative. Specific minorities in the U.S., including Latinos and African Americans, are particularly affected by oral health disparities, which grew even more marked in 2020. A study by D Como and colleagues found that there are specific factors that perpetuate these disparities. The research revealed structural, sociocultural, and familial factors that impact the ability of African Americans to access oral care services

What Factors Are Deepening The Disparity?

Como and colleagues identified a few of the strongest factors affecting African American oral health. These included structural factors such as the lack of outcry for accessible oral health and the marked decrease of dental visits after children were aged nine. They also included familial, sociocultural, and other factors (including financial problems, time constraints, and occasional frustration from parents with respect to their children completing their oral health routines). They found that older children in rural areas were more likely to have untreated cavities; that the perceived threat from dental disease was low; and that uninsurance rates and difficulty obtaining specialty care were issues in the African American community. So too was lack of awareness of important information. For instance, around 50% of study participants did not know their children were eligible for federally funded insurance. Among teens, the lack of personal doctors was an issue; the study also found that children with African American children with Medicare were less likely to see their dentist regularly than Caucasian children with Medicare. 

What Oral Health Problems Are Affecting African American Children And Adults?

Some of the most prevalent issues affecting African Americans are decay, caries, and missing teeth. The latter can be caused by cavities, but also by gum disease. Inflamed gums or early periodontal disease (known as gingivitis) affects African Americans at higher rates than Caucasians. When gum disease is serious, it can cause teeth to loosen and eventually fall out. Missing teeth wreak havoc on oral health, causing tooth misalignment, difficulties with eating, and social problems, amongst other things. Preventive oral health should therefore involve regular visits to the doctor to clean teeth, both on the surface and beneath the gum line. 

How Can Oral Health Disparities Be Reduced?

In order to reduce oral health disparities, issues need to be addressed from a multifaceted perspective. These include familial care (ensuring children stick to routines and consume xylitol in gum instead of sugar, for instance); sociocultural programs focused on promoting healthy lifestyles and taking care of oral hygiene; structural changes such as the adoption of school-based dental sealant programmes (which can help reduce barriers for access to dental services); teaching family caregivers to spot ‘pre-cavities’ early; identifying the link between education and oral health; and encouraging families and children alike to consume healthy snacks (and to avoid consuming soda and sugary foods). Issues such as mistrust and fear of dental professionals should also be addressed through educational and awareness programs and the education of dental health professionals in holistic health care. 

African Americans have several barriers to good oral health. These include difficulties obtaining access to health care and lower insurance rates. Sociocultural factors (such as the relationship with the medical community) also play a role, as does socioeconomic status. Addressing oral health disparities is a complex matter that includes encouraging families to make healthier food choices, increasing families’ awareness of available care, and establishing community-based programs centered on reducing access to quality care – these can include dental sealant programs in schools. Dental practitioners should also educate themselves on the knowledge, values and beliefs of their patients so they can provide holistic care and eliminate barriers to care – including fear and mistrust.

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