Study: Few Calif. Community Health Clinics Offer On-Site Dental Care
Details of Study
The study, conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, examined nearly 900 CHCs that provide primary care services to about 4.9 million low-income Californians.
The study was funded by the First Five L.A. 21st Century Community Dental Homes Project (UCLA Center for Health Policy release, 9/30).
According to the study, just about one-third of California CHCs offer dental services on site. Meanwhile, another third provide dental services at a different site.
The study found that the rural Northern and Sierra counties were more likely to have clinics that jointly offered dental and health services. Specifically, 51% of clinics in those counties had on-site dental services. In comparison, Los Angeles County had the fewest clinics with on-site dental services, at 23%.
Meanwhile, the study also found that clinics with on-site dental services often had limited availability because they employed only part-time dentists and hygienists.
The authors concluded that California could improve access to dental care, particularly among low-income residents, by employing or contracting with dentists at more CHCs.
The study also noted that untreated oral health issues could worsen other health conditions, "underscor[ing] the potential value of integrating oral health care and primary care services to provide highly accessible, comprehensive and whole-person care to populations most in need."
Study co-author Jim Crall, chair of the public health and community dentistry division at the UCLA School of Dentistry, said, "Dental care is often an afterthought compared to medical care," adding, "But oral health is vital for good overall health, and having a dental home helps avoid costly care that becomes necessary when oral health care is neglected" (HealthyCal, 9/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.