Oral Health in Florida is Among the Worst in the Nation.

Millions of Floridians can’t get affordable dental care in their communities. This is damaging to their physical health, self-image and even can be life threatening.

With 66 out of 67 Florida counties having designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, millions of Floridians have trouble finding a dentist in their local communities. Long waiting times to be seen or having to travel long distances to be seen are common. Florida’s oral health crisis has gone on far too long and it’s a cost no one can afford

Top Reasons for Immediate Reform

  1. In 2021, nearly 120,000 Floridians turned to hospital emergency rooms when they couldn’t stand their mouth pain any longer. All that an emergency room physician can do is prescribe antibiotics and sometimes pain pills for temporary pain relief. Without follow-up care within a few days or weeks, the pain and infection will return.
  2.  Children with missing teeth or other abnormalities develop self-image problems. This leads to bullying, social isolation, school absences, and impaired learning. 
  3. Untreated dental problems lead to medical complications in managing diabetes, heart conditions and other serious ailments. 
  4. Medical reports clearly document significant medical and taxpayer savings as a result of improved oral health and especially with certain chronic conditions
  5. In 2021, Florida hospital bills totaled $550 million for emergency room visits or hospitalizations for Floridians unable to access oral health care in their communities. You, the taxpayer, paid the majority of the tab.

There are more reasons to make reforms now.  Read the myths below and get the real facts.

Common Myths About Oral Health in Florida

Florida already has plenty of dentists

FACT: 66 of Florida’s 67 counties have Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Free dental clinics take care of the people who can't afford card

FACT: Charity is not a health care system. It is the very definition of second-tier care

Having poor oral health isn't such a big deal

FACT: Poor oral health is linked to numerous systemic illnesses and affects self-image and school/job performance

Loan forgiveness helps rural areas attract/retain dentists

FACT: It’s is a very expensive strategy and not large enough to impact access in rural areas.

Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rate will help more people access dentists

FACT: Raising Medicaid reimbursements will help some but increases in access are mostly modest and very expensive.

People with dental problems can just go to the emergency room

FACT: Emergency Rooms only provide provide  temporary pain relief for non-traumatic dental conditions.


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Wide Disparities Exist in Oral Health

Like many chronic conditions, the largest burden of disease occurs among marginalized groups such as those living in poverty; members of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities; frail elders; immigrant populations; those with special health care needs; and others.Top contributing factors to unmet oral health needs include:

Cost: High out-of-pocket costs for dental care is a top reason why Floridians avoid going to the dentist – even if they have dental insurance. Low-income families spend 10 times of their total income on dental care than that of wealthier families. Without dental coverage or the ability to afford care, many adults delay treatment as long as they can. This means they need more expensive and extensive oral care than they would if they had seen a dentist earlier in the disease process.

Provider Availability: With 66 of Florida’s 67 counties having Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, millions of Floridians have trouble finding a dentist in their local communities. Long waiting times to be seen or having to travel long distances to be seen are common. 41% of Medicaid adults report that they did not visit a dentist within the last 12 months. Floridians with Medicaid have exceptional access difficulties since only 18% of Florida dentists accept Medicaid.

Coverage: Nearly one in five (19.5%) of Florida adults ages 19 – 64 are uninsured. Florida is one of 10 states nationwide that severely limits dental coverage for adult Medicaid recipients to emergencies only.