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Barriers to Oral Healthcare in Rural Communities

Rural populations face a range of barriers that affect access to oral healthcare, including:

  • Low provider-to-population ratios
  • Inadequate number of dentists who accept Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program or who have discounted fee schedules
  • Insufficient or lack of dental insurance benefits
  • Lack of transportation
  • Lack of child care
  • Insufficient levels or lack of access to water fluoridation
  • Lack of awareness about oral health
  • Geographic barriers to care
  • Poverty
  • Cultural barriers and stigma

For additional information on the factors that affect health in rural communities, see Overview of Specific Issues in a Rural Context in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

The Challenge to Delivering Oral Health Services in Rural America
This literature review identifies challenges to oral health in rural America and presents innovative approaches to prevention, service delivery, and workforce development that may improve rural oral health.
Author(s): Skillman S., Doescher M., Mouradian W., & Brunson D.
Location: Journal of Public Health Dentistry
Date: 6/2010

Meeting Oral Health Care Needs in Rural America
This policy brief provides background information on rural oral disparities and gives recommendations for how to improve rural oral disparities on a national, state and local level. It also includes a section on suggested dental training programs.
Organization(s): National Rural Health Association
Date: 4/2005

The State of Rural Oral Health: A Literature Review
This is a literature review of rural oral health associated with the Healthy People 2010 focus area of oral health.
Authors(s): Fos, P. & Hutchison, L.
Organization(s): Rural Healthy People 2010
Date: 2003

The U.S. Oral Health Workforce in the Coming Decade: Workshop Summary
Chapter 3 discusses the challenges of identifying and defining rural populations. Issues related to demographics are also discussed.
Organization(s): National Research Council
Date: 2009