An event center doubles as a makeshift dental surgery area during the Eastern Shore Mission of Mercy dental clinic in in Salisbury, Md., on March 10. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

The May 14 front-page article “The painful truth about teeth” was informative and essential to understanding the complexities of U.S. health care. As a dentist with more than 26 years in private practice, I have seen a decline in employers’ funding of adequate dental reimbursement for their employees. I have also noted a rise in the states’ reluctance to be a source of assistance for the uninsured.

I volunteered at Prince William County’s free clinics until the county closed them, and I volunteer at the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic, one of the few resources for uninsured residents of Fairfax County. The safety net for Virginia’s most vulnerable residents is shrinking.

The care of all of our citizens should not be beholden to the prevailing political party. The lack of affordable dental treatment for the underinsured predates the Trump, Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

We need awareness that dental health is systemic health; dental-school debt is driving a lack of access to care, and dental insurance is more than a quarter-century behind its partner in medical insurance.

Mary Kate Moriarty, Dumfries

I just returned from a month in northern Mexico, where a young dentist, in an impeccably neat and well-equipped office, performed a professional cleaning of my teeth for the equivalent of $15, all the while chatting in flawless English. I returned a few days later and spent a whopping $130 for a whitening job, performed by a qualified dentist.

In Brazil, in the course of 50 years, I have seen a society in which good teeth were the privilege of the well-to-do transform into one where your taxi driver or cleaning lady almost invariably displays the results of good dental care.

The moral, I believe, is not that Americans should rush to Mexico, Brazil and other economically poorer countries to have their teeth cleaned; rather, it is that all Americans, especially policymakers, must overcome a national reluctance to analyze and emulate successful practices in other countries, regardless of those nations’ political structure or economic standing.

American exceptionalism has noble ancestry but is no longer serving us as well as it may have in the past.

Donaldo Hart, Washington