Closing Gaps in Dental Care

John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund

Building Bridges to Better Health  

Closing Gaps In Dental Care

Significant connections exist between inadequate oral health and a variety of other health challenges – from cardiovascular disease and poorly controlled diabetes to low birth weight babies and deteriorating quality of life. In addition, people without private dental insurance are seven times more likely to visit the emergency department, because they cannot address oral health problems in a timely way. Typically, this results in worse clinical outcomes and higher health care costs.

Dentist with child patient


Moreover, according to a February 2013 report commissioned by the CHF and completed by La Piana Consulting and Harder+Company Community Research, the capacity of existing safety net efforts to provide oral health care to children reaches only a fraction of those who need it – and adults have even less access to dental care, especially since 2009, when California reduced its adult Denti-Cal benefits. This is particularly problematic for frail seniors, disabled adults, and adults with chronic disease who experience unique barriers to care and who have a compounded risk of poor oral health and related health issues.

To help address this problem, in 2011 and 2012, the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund (CHF) provided $1,111,174 in three grants to La Clínica de La Raza, so it could pilot off-site, high quality oral health care and oral health education that built on existing dental services at La Clínica’s busy Monument and Pittsburg dental clinics.

The grants supported:

  • Planning that included establishing strong, formal partnerships with locations where La Clínica would practice
  • The purchase of necessary equipment
  • A needs assessment for seniors, as well as direct delivery of dental care and health education for those seniors whom the assessment found needed it
  • Direct delivery of an array of dental services and health education to sites in central and east Contra Costa that serve pregnant mothers, children ages 3 to 5, and school-age children from kindergarten through fifth grade