Oral Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas


Oral and dental health are known to be some of the critical aspects of the overall health and the focus of healthcare systems all around the world, as well as in the United States of America (Maxey, 2014). Oral and dental health care practices, procedures, and treatments are very diverse and multiple. The general population is in a constant need of different types of services preventing oral health conditions, promoting hygiene, and treating the existent diseases. However, there exist certain groups of the population that have limited access to dental and oral care and thus tend to have an overall higher rate of dental problems. The aforementioned groups and communities are known as the underserved populations that may experience difficulties in accessing oral health services for several different reasons such as the level of income, social status, and geographic location. The focus of this paper is to outline the problem of poor access to oral care in rural and underserved communities, emphasize the need for research in this field, and the potential implications of this research project.

Problem Statement

The inequalities in access to oral health services represent a significant public health issue as the inability of certain groups of the population to obtain the required care translates into their quality of life (Yfantopoulos, Papaioannou, Oulis, & Yfantopoulos, 2015). Also, as it was mentioned in the introductory section, there exist three major reasons due to which some of the population groups remain underserved in terms of receiving oral health services – the level of income, geographical location, and social status. It turns out that the communities dwelling in the rural areas can be characterized by at least two of the three reasons – location and income. Differently put, the residents of the rural communities tend to have a lower level of income and thus cannot afford the appropriate oral care, and also, their remote geographical position complicates the access to health services (Emami, Khiyani, Habra, Chassé, & Rompré, 2015).

In fact, the limitations in access to care faced by the rural communities are a historic public health issue that persists all around the world (Emami et al., 2015). Many of the healthcare systems all over the globe develop strategies and policies helping address this problem; some of the solutions involve portable and mobile service providing models and the engagement of the dental students in the provision of low-cost and flexible services to the communities struggling with inequalities (Ganavadiya, Chandrashekar, Goel, Hongal, & Jain, 2014; Razdan, Degenholtz, & Rubin, 2016). However, the problem is that regardless of these efforts, the issues continue to persist pointing at the complexity of the problem and the participation of multiple factors contributing to the inequalities in the access to oral care.

Purpose of Research

In terms of the opportunities to receive the dental and oral health services upon necessity, the rural areas are highly dependent on the urban districts located in the geographic proximity (Emami et al., 2015). In that way, it is possible to state that apart from the general reasons contributing to the inequalities in access to care, there exist the individual factors specific to each individual group or community (Ogunbodede et al., 2015). In that way, the purpose of the present research is to identify the factors that represent either category of the contributors for rural communities, as well as the underserved urban populations. Also, another aim of this study is to connect the identified factors and causes with the dental and oral health outcomes experienced by both of the affected population groups.

This type of project is important and necessary in the contemporary world that is rapidly globalizing and facing significant changes in terms of the relocation of the populations all around the globe, the establishment of new communities with their individual needs. For instance, one of the population groups recognized for their unique social status that translated in the diminished level of access to oral and other types of health services is represented by the refugees and asylum seekers (Keboa, Hiles & Macdonald. 2016). Moreover, over the last several years, the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the world has been growing and so has their need for health care (Keboa et al., 2016). The issues resulting from poor access to oral health care tend to deteriorate over time as the affected individuals age; eventually, the untreated dental and oral conditions may grow into very serious health problems and produce adverse effects on the quality of life of the populations at risk.

Research Questions

The research questions of the present project will target the causes of inequalities in the access to oral care among the underserved communities. In addition, the other focus of the research questions will be the potential health outcomes resulting from poor access to dental care. The full list of the questions is presented below:

  1. What are the most common reasons of the impaired access to oral care globally?
  2. What are the most common reasons of the impaired access to oral care in the United States?
  3. What are the outcomes of the poor access to care in the underserved and rural communities in the United States?


While searching for the answers to the research questions listed below, the project will be able to name the most vulnerable population groups and communities experiencing the limitations in regard to the access to care in the United States. In turn, their characteristics and needs associated with the provision of necessary dental and oral care will become clearer. As a result, the findings of the project will offer a deeper perspective of the underserved communities thus revealing the areas that require immediate change and the strategies for its planning and implementation that would be the most successful given the individual features of the targeted communities and groups.


To sum up, the problem of the impaired access to dental and oral health care services can be observed all around the world and persists regardless of the size and socio-economic status of the countries (Alotaibi, 2016). The populations suffering from poor access to oral care are very diverse. In that way, their limitations can be caused by global, as well as individual factors. The aim of the proposed project is to research and identify the particular factors that contribute to the limitations in the access to dental and oral care in the underserved populations and rural communities in the territory of the United States. This research is expected to shed light on the specific strategies likely to prove effective for the targeted groups by means of naming the factors that produce the strongest impact and dictate their limitations.


Alotaibi, M. (2016). Are there rural-urban differences in dentist supply? Theses and Dissertations–Public Health, Paper 125. Web.

Emami, E., Khiyani, M. F., Habra, C. P., Chassé, V., & Rompré, P. H. (2015). Mapping the Quebec dental workforce: Ranking rural oral health disparities. Rural and Remote Health, 16, 1-12.

Ganavadiya, R., Goel, P., Hongal, S., Jain, M., & Chandrashekar, B. (2014). Mobile and portable dental services catering to the basic oral health needs of the underserved population in developing countries: A proposed model. Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research, 4(3), 293.

Keboa, M., Hiles, N., & Macdonald, M. (2016). The oral health of refugees and asylum seekers: A scoping review. Globalization and Health, 12(1).

Maxey, H. L. (2014). Understanding the influence of state policy environment on dental service availability, access, and oral health in America’s medically underserved communities. Web.

Ogunbodede, E., Kida, I., Madjapa, H., Amedari, M., Ehizele, A., & Mutave, R.,… Okoye, L. (2015). Oral Health Inequalities between Rural and Urban Populations of the African and Middle East Region. Advances in Dental Research, 27(1), 18-25.

Razdan, M., Degenholtz, H. B., & Rubin, R. W. (2016).Oral health outreach programs – can they address the disparities in access to dental care? Journal of Oral Health and Community Dentistry, 10(1), 14-19.

Yfantopoulos, J., Oulis, C., Yfantopoulos, P., & Papaioannou, W. (2014). Socio-economic inequalities in oral health: The case of Greece. Health, 06(16), 2227-2235.

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