A healthy smile has numerous benefits to our general well-being and self-esteem, but many people don’t pursue or don’t have access to general dental care, which includes regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings as well as restorative treatments like dentures.
A South Carolina program ensures that more residents receive the preventive and restorative dental services they need. Its quick impact recently received the spotlight from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Ready to ROC
North of Columbia in York County, an estimated 40,000 adults lack access to dental care. According to an Aug. 8 ADA news article, the local nonprofit Renew Our Community (ROC) — which typically provides housing, food and clothing to the under-served — broadened its focus to include dental services after encountering the need first-hand.
ROC launched its Dental Initiative in 2015 after participating in the South Carolina Dental Association’s (SCDA) Dental Access Days the year prior. That event provides basic dental services to those in need. In 2014, Dental Access Days served about 1,400 patients over the course of a single day, according to the ADA article.
In 2015, more than 1,500 individuals were treated via Dental Access Days. The SCDA’s Dental Access Days page indicates that a majority of the dental work involves teeth extraction and restorative treatments.
Connecting Patients and Dental Homes
The ADA article notes that many who receive care through the ROC program have long been without “dental homes.” A dental home is not simply your dentist, it’s having a doctor and partner in your health whom you visit regularly. It’s a place where you feel comfortable, have people you trust to tell secrets about your dental health and relevant aspects of your overall health.
In addition to helping those in need receive dental treatments, ROC also encourages patients to establish dental homes. The concept of a dental home — or, more generally, a medical home — is endorsed by numerous health agencies because it is patient-centered, provides consistency, establishes trust, and enhances the ability to detect potential problems when they are more easily treatable.
“For the first time in their lives, some people are finding a dental home for sustained dental care,” said Dale Dove, who founded ROC, in the ADA report. ROC’s dental initiative helped nearly 900 people receive dental treatment in its first year.
The Benefits of Prevention and Restoration
The best protection against tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health ailments is a good dental hygiene routine that includes brushing at least twice daily and routine exams with your dentist (a healthy diet and lifestyle also help). If you suffer from dental problems, it’s best to seek treatment before they further impact your oral health or general well-being.
Common dental issues such as cavities, periodontal disease or missing teeth eventually affect your healthy teeth. Without treatment, these conditions can lead to bite problems, bone loss, and severe infections that increase your risk for other health afflictions. Timely treatment reduces the cost and extent of dental work necessary, and helps prevent further problems that threaten your smile and your health.