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Health Care | Life Resources | Support Programs

Caring for the Whole Health of Georgia

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Bridging the Gap: CareSource’s Commitment to Oral Health in Rural Georgia.

By: Dr. Judy Greenlea Taylor, dental director, CareSource

Oral Health Team

Rural areas face unique challenges in accessing all health care, including dental care. Limited availability of dentists and hygienists, transportation barriers and socioeconomic factors often result in disparities in oral health outcomes between those who live in rural and urban areas. Studies consistently show higher rates of untreated dental issues and a greater prevalence of oral diseases in rural populations compared to their urban counterparts. For example, a publication in the National Library of Medicine noted, children in rural areas are 5% less likely to receive preventive dental care than children in urban areas, and adults in rural areas are 7% more likely to have missing teeth.

Recently, Georgia has taken action to improve access to dental care, and in this year’s amended fiscal year budget, Governor Kemp included $178 million for the design and construction of a dental school at Georgia Southern University, a move supported by Speaker Jon Burns and Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones. This initiative will help expand access and increase the number of providers in the state.

At CareSource, we are committed to building on the strategic policy decisions made by the Governor and General Assembly to increase access to dental care. Through innovative programs and strategic partnerships, we are working to ensure that all Georgians, regardless of their zip code, have access to high-quality dental care. We are accomplishing this in several ways:

Expanding Provider Networks: CareSource understands the importance of having enough dental providers, especially in underserved areas. We are actively expanding our network of dentists in rural communities by incentivizing dental professionals who serve rural populations. These incentives include tuition reimbursement aid, rural practice start-up assistance and programs that encourage large practices to open small, satellite practices in rural regions to meet the growing demand for dental services.

Virtual Dental Home Initiatives

Virtual Dental Home Initiatives: CareSource partners with public health programs and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to improve the oral health and dental care of the population they serve. We recently donated mobile dental and teledentistry equipment to promote the expansion of these provider’s capabilities to bring safe, high-quality dental care to Georgia residents in the communities where they live. Most importantly, these efforts bring much-needed care and preventive services to those who might otherwise receive no care.

Transportation Assistance: Individuals and families in rural areas often experience many stressors due to social determinants of health (SDOH). A common barrier to dental care access is simply a lack of reliable transportation. Over time, this results in a high dental visit no-show rate. To address this, CareSource has invested considerable time and money to establish strong relationships with non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers. Siblings or other children in the home can use these resources, or we can provide a caregiver allowance for parents if leaving other children is an impediment to this assistance due to travel time.

Collaborative Partnerships and Community Outreach: Increasing community partnerships and activities that promote access to care, oral health education and social support to promote oral health equity is at the core of CareSource’s mission. By partnering and linking with community organizations, professional associations, schools and community resources, we can raise awareness about the importance of good oral health. Some of these partnerships include TeamSmile, a national organization that provides dental care through the power of sports, and Children’s Oral Health Institute’s Lessons in a Lunch Box, which provides children an early education about taking care of their teeth, healthy eating and snacking, and dental careers.

As we continue our efforts to improve access to dental care in rural Georgia, CareSource remains steadfast in our commitment to promoting oral health equity for all residents. We believe that everyone deserves a healthy smile, and we are dedicated to bridging the gap in oral health, one community at a time. Together, we will continue working to build a future where every Georgian, regardless of where they live, can access the dental care they need to thrive. CareSource is proud to be at the forefront of this important mission, and we are grateful for the leadership and partnership with our elected leaders, providers and community partners to create a healthier, happier Georgia.

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