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Redlining Cavities (+ Dental Coverage Tips)

Update Date: Jun 20, 2021 08:19 PM EDT
Redlining Cavities (+ Dental Coverage Tips)
(Photo : Redlining Cavities (+ Dental Coverage Tips))

Have you ever researched car insurance rates to find a dentist? Probably not, right? When looking for any kind of healthcare, finding a place that takes your insurance and isn't too far from home are usually two of the big factors for which office you choose.

However, as it turns out, even car insurance for doctors & dentists has a part to play in the kind of service you receive. We all think of doctors as being genuine in their desire to help others live happy, healthy lives. However, sometimes practicing in a certain zip code becomes detrimental to their business, which means it's no wonder why we see a lack of doctors in the hood.

Crooked Lines Have Led to Crooked Teeth

Seeing how political history has affected us even down to our teeth might make you wish you had paid more attention in history class. Back then, the history and hardship of times like the Great Depression seemed so far away from where we are today. 

However, the decisions to keep the country afloat then have had an extreme impact on the healthcare millions of Americans receive today. Healthcare has changed over the last decade, but history still has its impact.

Redlining is the main contributor to why there are healthcare disparities and other gaps between the frequency and quality of healthcare within reach for lower-income and minority Americans. 

What is redlining?

This term can make people uncomfortable because of its racial connection but make no mistake, redlining was intended to put down specific groups of citizens in hopes of saving others.

During the depression, employment rates hit a record low, which played a domino effect on the whole economy, specifically homeownership and banks that provided homeowner and business loans.

Communities of both low income and majorly African-American populated composed the majority of areas where the redlined neighborhoods were drawn.

In the hopes of saving banks, and later justified by the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, redlining got its name by the red highlight placed over these undesirable neighborhoods. This act allowed the practice to become legal and became common for both banks and independent businesses.

The Effect of Redlining on Healthcare

By literally marking off the areas seen as unfit for investment for both opening businesses and homeownership, whole neighborhoods were left to depreciate. These boundaries then pushed positive monetary economic practices towards predominantly white communities.

While denying practicing medical professionals to easily offer services to people of color, the loans needed to build up or move out of these redlined communities have directly influenced the social determinants of health that negatively impact communities of color today. 

Some of the long-lasting effects from redlining we see in these communities today are:

  • Higher uninsured rates in comparison to majority-white populated zip codes
  • Lower likelihood of visiting or receiving regulated doctor and dentist care
  • Increased likelihood of these areas to be or become food deserts
  • Increase in health issues such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes due to lack of preventive treatment
  • Education surrounding health and medical field practices unschooled
  • Higher unemployment rate

Besides the overall quality of life being lower, the normalization of not visiting dentists has caused a lower rate of African-American and Black representation within the medical field. 

Though we have seen an increase in Black and POC (people of color) doctors in recent years, nationally, less than three percent of dentists identify as Black or POC.

Communal Decay Didn't Start at the Dentist

Think about why you don't see lifestyle businesses such as yoga and pilates studios or coffee shops after a particular freeway exit. If you're frequently leaving your neighborhood for organic ingredients or to receive healthcare from places you used to live, you are likely living in a red-zoned community.

Just as it can be inconvenient to drive to places with the things we need, it can be just as bothersome when needing to drive for work. It's not that doctors and dentists don't want to serve disadvantaged communities or communities of color. However, thanks to redlining, paying extra for it is precisely what they're doing.

Doctors and dentists face paying higher loan interest rates, business insurance, life insurance, and car insurance rates if they wish to practice in areas that would be redlined if it were still legal practice today.

These deterrents to practice in these locations are among the biggest factors in why we don't see more medical practices in the neighborhoods where people need it most.

Avoiding Dental is Dangerous

Even seemingly unnecessary dental procedures are important to maintaining our overall health. 

Staying on top of routine teeth cleanings and receiving procedures for straighter teeth can be healthier than taking daily supplements. If you're serious about your health, dental care isn't a self-care step you should skip, which means regularly seeing your dentist.

Having straight teeth isn't only cosmetic. Straighter teeth are easier to clean, make chewing easier which leads to smoother digestion. Having straighter teeth can even reduce strain on your jaw and neck and reduce your risk of periodontal disease. 

Dental hygiene helps maintain good full-body health which can even impact your life insurance rates by helping you to qualify for no exam life insurance

Incomplete Dental Coverage Risks

The dental care disparities lead to a hindrance in accessibility, and the amount of care that low-income and ethnic communities are able to receive. 

Socioeconomic status has always been a catalyst for a positive or negative result in patient access to proper dental care. Due to the redlining in low-income driven populations, care can be negated due to certain states' Medicare and Medicaid plans. 

Even the programs designed to close these healthcare disparity gaps are only good for getting potential patients in the door. For example, in some states, like Mississippi, a patient will pay for the exam for a bad tooth but not for the procedure.

However, other states like Florida have different exceptions and might cover only specific costs even if other care is needed.

These kinds of incomplete coverage leave even those who have dental coverage with not enough available funds to treat their issues, which often lead to other health complications. In addition, having partially finished dental work creates the chance for new complications to arise.

Although incomplete coverage results in some people receiving affordable dental work, this situation also can put patients in a worse-off position than if they didn't receive any after factoring in additional physical and mental stressors. 

The Next Step 

As gentrification becomes more widespread, the knowledge of redlining and its impact on dental insurance is useful for all Americans regardless of economic status or racial identity. Redlining maps may be the maps that are contributing to today's soil, but the favorable zip code zoning practices are far from the dump. 

When looking for the best medical professional for you and your family, it might be in your best interest to look outside of your ZIP code.

Despite the decades of investigation into the healthcare disparities and analyzing social determinants of health that contribute to the healthcare gap, the long-term effects of these frowned upon practices continue to hinder America financially and morally. 

We are the products of the past generations, meaning that we should know what mistakes to avoid and how we can create a greater country in all aspects. 

And when we can all smile, it means we have all won.

About The Author: Danielle Beck-Hunter writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, Danielle is an insurance expert, and with the help of dentist Reuben Little II, DDS strives to inform the general public on the importance of both communal personal healthcare.

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