America’s Oral Health Crisis: What’s Going On?

From families unable to prioritize dental care to government programs neglecting oral hygiene, systemic issues contribute to poor oral health across the nation.


Factors Fueling America’s Oral Health Crisis 

Here’s why something as easily reversed as tooth decay has become a silent epidemic:


1. Oral Health Not a Priority for Some American Families

Some households do not prioritize dental care, often due to a lack of awareness.

Too many people don’t understand the importance of good oral hygiene and dental care. Beyond toothaches and extractions, issues like tooth loss, abscesses, and gum disease can negatively impact nutrition, sleep, self-esteem, and work or school performance. Some also fail to realize that oral health is directly associated with one’s overall health and wellness. For example, gum disease and cavity-causing bacteria can lead to far more serious medical issues, including heart problems, if untreated.


2. Cost Concerns

Dental care is expensive, and for families struggling to pay for necessities, dental visits often get put off or skipped altogether. In fact, 92% of Americans would consider delaying dental care due to financial reasons. Unfortunately, while skipping dentist appointments may save money in the short term, it will cost more down the road.


3. Believing Misconceptions About of Teeth and Gum Health

Several myths and misconceptions contribute to America’s oral health crisis. For instance, many people believe that brushing alone is enough to maintain good dental hygiene. However, plaque and tartar buildup require regular professional cleaning to remove. Regular checkups also allow dentists to spot problems early before they escalate into deteriorating dental conditions.

Another common misconception is that cavities only affect children. In reality, adults are at high risk for cavities due to factors like aging enamel, acidic foods and drinks, and a lack of diligent brushing and flossing. Seniors also face an increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss. As a matter of fact, many older Americans have regretted skipping annual dental checkups during their youth.

With so many misconceptions still commonplace, it’s not surprising that America struggles with oral health issues. Increased awareness and education are necessary to dispel these myths and cultivate better dental habits.


4. Government Inaction

The harsh truth is that oral health is not given the same priority as general healthcare in the U.S. While the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid provide dental benefits for kids, 77 million adults in the U.S. opt out of dental insurance due to the additional expense. According to Forbes Advisor’s analysis, dental insurance policies average $47 a month, which can be too pricey for low-income households.

Without government support, many families struggle to afford dental insurance and procedures. Dental care can be steep, and for Americans with limited means, trips to the dentist often take a back seat to other necessities like food, shelter, and general healthcare. By not making dental care accessible and affordable for all, the government has allowed oral health to become a crisis in America.

Until policymakers make oral healthcare a priority and increase funding for education and coverage programs, millions of Americans will continue to suffer from dental diseases and other oral health issues. Recognizing oral health as a key part of total health is an important first step. Supporting water fluoridation, school-based dental sealant programs, and community health centers are evidence-based solutions that can help improve oral health on a large scale. However, to truly solve this crisis, major policy changes are still desperately needed to make dental coverage and care available for all Americans, regardless of their ability to pay.


5. Oral Hygiene Products Are Not SNAP-Approved

Households cannot use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to buy oral care items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. For the homeless and economically disadvantaged families, paying out of pocket for these necessities is unfeasible.

Young children from poor and low-income families suffer the most from lack of access to dental care. Their growing teeth and gums are vulnerable to damage, and poor oral health in childhood often continues into adulthood. By adding basic dental hygiene products and oral care to SNAP benefits, we could improve health outcomes for the next generation.

Efforts are underway to convince legislators to include oral health items in SNAP. However, until policies change, local charities and nonprofits attempt to fill the gaps by providing toothbrushes, toothpaste, and education to underserved groups.


6. Lack of Dentists in Certain Communities

The shortage of dental providers in many parts of the country, predominantly in rural and underserved areas, furthers America’s dental health crisis. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 70 million Americans live in areas with few dental health professionals.

Without routine checkups and cleanings, oral health issues like cavities and gum disease can progress, leading to pain, tooth loss, and serious health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The shortage of dentists disproportionately impacts low-income populations and minority groups who face other barriers to care, including high costs and lack of insurance. And for those who manage to find a dentist, wait times can be long due to limited staff members and supplies.


How Can You Help?

Oral health affects so much more than your teeth and gums. From self-esteem to overall health – it’s all connected. While many factors contribute to the United States’ dental health crisis, the solution can also start with you. Educate yourself on proper dental care and hygiene, advocate for policies that prioritize oral health, and spread awareness to your family and community. If you want to make a bigger impact, you can sponsor the dental care of a child in need. The In the Gap Program by America’s Toothfairy provides grants to help uninsured and underinsured individuals gain access to vital dental treatments. Find out more at


Meet Your Chandler Family Dentist

Whether you need routine checkups and cleanings, fillings or crowns to repair damaged teeth, or cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening or veneers, Kyrene Family Dentistry has the expertise to restore your smile to its healthiest, brightest state. Our gentle, patient-focused care makes dental visits as comfortable as possible for all patients. Contact us to arrange your dental appointment in Chandler, Arizona.