Understanding Oral Health Care Access in North Carolina

— Written By

Maps were created by the Wake County GIS 4-H Club for NC GIS Day

Understanding Oral Health infosheet

Access to oral health care is a challenge for many North Carolinians. The
top map displays the 15 minute drive time buffers for dentists in NC that
accept government-funded insurances, namely Medicaid or NC Health Choice. However, many communities have dentists that do not accept Medicaid or NC Health Choice. While not the only barrier to accessing oral health care in NC, the burgundy polygons display the areas of the State that do not have 15 minute access. The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute reports that 90% of enrolled beneficiaries live within a 15-minute drive to an enrolled provider’s office. Clearly, in the more urban areas, access is not an issue. However, the smaller proportion of the population living in the more rural areas are still without access.

For comparison, the bottom map displays the variance in untreated tooth decay in NC kindergarten students in 72 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. While 28 counties conduct their own data collection, leaving multiple gaps in the available picture, a visible relationship exists between lack of access to a dentist and untreated tooth decay. Of note, NC has limiting provisions for hygienists operating without a dentist physically present in the facility, further hindering oral health care access for many of NC’s rural communities.