If you’ve ever walked out of a dentist’s office with an eye-popping bill, you’re probably well aware of the frustrations that come with getting modern dental care. Necessary procedures aren’t generally covered under health insurance plans, let alone regular cleanings. Even if you do have separate dental insurance, you’ll quickly find that the maximum coverage is quite a bit lower than you might hope. On the bright side, the US does generally make the list of countries with the best oral health. On the not-so-bright side, it’s estimated that about half of people with medical debt in the country have at least some debt from dental care.

We’ll be taking a look at dental care access in the US and some of the difficulties people and families face. We’ll also be donating to America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, an organization working to ensure all children can access dental care.

Lack of Support for Low-Income Families

The CDC reports that more people in the US are unable to afford dental care than other types of health care. Nearly a third of people don’t have dental insurance, and medical care assistance programs for low-income families like Medicaid aren’t required to provide dental benefits. This means that some states offer programs while others do not.

Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that lower-income children and adults are more likely to suffer from cavities, tooth loss and traumatic dental injuries. Preventive care is a staple in dental care, but both cleanings and screenings are expensive without–and often even with–dental insurance.

The National Effects of Poor Dental Health

Dental health can feel like a very personal problem, but the issues add up on a national level. It’s estimated that over 34 million school hours are lost per year due to unplanned urgent dental care. Over $45 billion is lost in productivity in the US annually because of untreated oral disease. Eighteen percent of adults admit that the appearance of their teeth affects their ability to interview for a job. It’s clear that the ripple effects of an already difficult situation can spread far and wide.

How to Help

While we’re not all able to offer the kind of support that a dentist or other oral health provider can, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. Many organizations exist that provide both oral health education and reduced-cost dental care to communities that are suffering the most. Places like America’s ToothFairy are focused on helping kids, but there are plenty of non-profits that focus on others in need.