We help to provide dental health tools for children in Appalachia because there is clear evidence that dental inequality hurts them in ways that many people can’t imagine.
You may know, for example, that there “are striking disparities in dental disease by income. Poor children suffer twice as much [tooth decay] as their more affluent peers, and their disease is more likely to be untreated. These poor-nonpoor differences continue into adolescence. One out of four children in America is born into poverty, and children living below the poverty line (annual income of $17,000 for a family of four) have more severe and untreated decay.” – Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General (Executive Summary).
But did you know that poor dental health has serious economic ramifications that leave communities stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty?
According to the New York Times, “[p]eople with bad teeth can be stigmatized, both in social settings and in finding employment. Studies document that we make judgments about one another — including about intelligence — according to the aesthetics of teeth and mouth.
About one-third of adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty level (low enough to be eligible for Medicaid in states that adopted the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion) report that the appearance of their teeth and mouth affected their ability to interview for a job. By comparison, only 15 percent of adults with incomes above 400 percent of the poverty level feel that way.”
In short, children in poverty are more likely to have poor dental health, and this ultimately makes it more difficult for them to find a job and escape poverty. Thus, the cycle continues, and continues, and continues.
This is why we take dental health so seriously. Because the future of children in Appalachia depends on it.