Oral health is all around us and it’s more than just a pretty smile. It is our connection to a provider that not only cares for our gums and teeth but can also look into our mouth and tell when we have other health issues in our body.
As children learn to form sounds and words, teeth are critical to their development. Oral health allows one to eat healthy, crunchy foods. What we drink either improves or harms oral health – whether it is fluoridated tap water or sugary drinks. All too often, a healthy smile is a gateway to employability. Prevention goes beyond the dental office and the toothbrush, paste, and hopefully floss on our counters!
As defined by the World Dental Federation: Oral health is multi-faceted and includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions through facial expressions with confidence and without pain, discomfort and disease of the craniofacial complex.
Tooth decay is almost 100% preventable and, yet it is the most common chronic disease of early childhood. Imagine if thousands of kids were going to school with eye infections or open infected wounds on their arms. On the other end of the spectrum, 70.1% of adults 65 years or older have periodontal disease, a common infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that supports teeth.
Both tooth decay and gum disease are more common in certain populations, one of the many inequities in oral health. There are large disparities in Colorado based on race/ethnicity, age, income and geography:
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that students at low-income schools suffer higher rates of untreated tooth decay than children at other schools. African-American and Latino children are more likely to have experienced cavities and are less likely to have access to dental care than white students.
- Almost two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries (65%), or nearly 37 million people, do not have dental coverage.
- Adults in rural areas have almost twice the prevalence of tooth loss vs. urban adults.
Everyone is unique. And every smile has a unique set of needs that, if addressed, will guide them on the path to better overall health.
We face major oral health hurdles, especially when you think that the number of older adults in Colorado is increasing more than 60% by 2030 and is becoming increasingly racially and ethnically diverse. What will happen to our community health if people aren’t able to prioritize dental care?
Join us in improving health inequities in Colorado communities. Our next oral health funding opportunity begins June 1. Learn more at ddcofoundation.org.