Barriers to care include anything that limits or prevents people from receiving adequate health care. In the case of dental care, the most common are financial hardship, geographic location, pressing health needs and poor oral health literacy. Language, education, cultural and ethnic barriers may compound the problem. In many cases, multiple issues are involved. To access the necessary care for their dental needs, patients may require transportation, oral health education and/or financial assistance.

Barriers to care can leave patients with serious conditions that threaten their overall systemic health and quality of life. As of Nov. 28, 2017, there were 5,777 Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). It would take 7,300 additional practitioners to meet every HPSA community's need for dental providers (a population to practitioner ratio of 5,000:1).

  • 47 million Americans are affected by barriers to care
  • More than 16.5 million children in the U.S. were not taken to a dentist in 2009
  • 29 states and 53 other countries permit expanded function to dental assistants

ASDA Policy

Resolution 305-RC-2011 Defining Dental Access:

Resolved, that ASDA, in recognition of the existence of multiple barriers to care, utilize the phrase “barriers to care” when applicable rather than “access to care” in all ASDA communications; and be it further

Resolved, that whenever possible, ASDA further identifies which “barrier to care” is being addressed (e.g. financial, geographic, governmental policy, personal, etc.).

Dr. Aaron Bumann, a University of Minnesota graduate and 2011-12 legislative coordinator, wrote an article about the term “barriers to care.” In this article he provides background to the resolution that passed at the House of Delegates during Annual Session 2011 that helps better define and communicate the issue. 

ASDA does not support the use of midlevel providers to solve the barriers to care issue.

What Has ASDA Done

ASDA members have sent more than 300 letters to Congress urging them to co-sponsor H.R. 2422, the Action for Dental Health Act. The bill would enable organizations to provide dental services to underserved populations through grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In October, ASDA sent a letter to Congress urging the House of Representatives to extend funding for the National Health Service Corps NHSC), Community Health Centers and the Childhood Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

ASDA members are very active in supporting initiatives that address barriers to care. Many chapters are involved in projects like Give Kids a Smile and Missions of Mercy, which provide dental care to patients who may otherwise go untreated.

Read about ASDA members’ perspective on barriers to care in the following articles: