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New report on state of oral healthcare for urban, low-income households in India

October 4, 2018

LGT VP worked with Grameen Foundation India to understand attitudes, behavior and challenges around access to oral healthcare.



The research undertaken by Grameen Foundation India and LGT Venture Philanthropy across five Indian cities (Mumbai, Surat, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata) provides important insights into the oral healthcare ecosystem of low-income households with special emphasis on access, ability and awareness to access dental healthcare. 

The study included a cross-sectional survey of 2924 respondents that helped explore deeper insights about dental health seeking behavior, determinants, perceptions about oral healthcare, and understand the challenges and bottlenecks that prevent an optimal utilization of dental healthcare facilities. 

The majority of respondents were from low-income households, 80% f the respondent fall below $5 poverty line. 

In addition to the survey, the study also involved qualitative interviews with dental healthcare providers from these five cities. 

The study helped to understand the incidence of dental ailments among low-income communities and their response to such ailments.



Key findings include:  

  • Nearly 49% of the respondents from community surveys reported experiencing an oral ailment in the last 12 months. It is highly likely that the actual prevalence of oral ailments was much higher than the self-reported prevalence.
  • Nearly 50% of the respondents did not seek care from a healthcare provider even when they experienced symptoms. Most dentists who were interviewed during this study confirmed that they observed a tendency to delay access to medical care in most patients and more so in low income groups.
  • Currently, the priority for dental health is very low among the government-run public health programs. This is reflected in the funding allocated to dental health and dental care is not part of most public healthcare facilities.
  • Among those who decide to seek care, private dental clinics are the most popular options even when the cost of care in such clinics are on the higher side.
  • Out of the respondents who had visited a dental clinic, 65% reported that they found the service affordable. Most practitioners cited that cost was one of the key barriers for low income population while seeking dental treatment. 

One major recommendation that emerged from the study was to invest in improvement of awareness and attitude of the general population towards oral health. Practitioners felt that this need was far greater for the low-income segments as they are far more vulnerable to health shocks.

Information, education, and communication initiatives promoting behavior change targeting both adults and children will play an important role in changing the demand side factors affecting utilization of dental health services.

Read the full report here.