Teeth Week 2017
Local network created to improve oral health and reduce health disparities in Spokane County
SmileMobile offers free and reduced cost dental care Oct. 6-8
Organizations committed to improving oral health and overall health in Spokane County are combining efforts through a new local network to reduce health disparities for the most vulnerable people in the community.
The Spokane Oral Health Local Impact Network (LIN) will coordinate and expand current efforts to improve health and well-being with a comprehensive set of strategies focused on preventing disease, transforming health care delivery and expanding access to care. The 3-year goal is to make significant progress on reducing health disparities in Spokane County.
Participants in the LIN include Arcora Foundation, Spokane Regional Health District, Providence Health Care, Communities in Schools, Frontier Behavioral Health, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, Spokane County United Way, CHAS, Native Project, Eastern Washington School of Hygiene, SNAP, Spokane District Dental Society, Better Health Together and Smile Spokane.
“Through the LIN, we want to raise awareness that oral health is essential for overall health, and ensure that preventing disease and keeping people healthy is a community priority and an option, especially for those who are most vulnerable,” said Kristen West, Deputy Director, Arcora Foundation. “We are aiming for a future in which preventing disease and getting people into preventive care early is the norm.”
Announcement of the LIN is occurring during Teeth Week, an annual event in Spokane that runs Oct. 6-15 this year. Teeth Week was initiated several years ago when organizations across the city pledged to work together to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.
According to the Spokane Regional Health District, over half of the children in the county have had cavities by the third grade, nearly 12 percent of pre-school children have untreated decay, and rampant decay (decay in 7 or more teeth) has increased across all ages. In addition, 33% of adults in Spokane County do not have dental insurance and 2015 only 23.5% of Medicaid-insured adults in Spokane County accessed dental care.
“Oral disease and related health impacts are widespread and debilitating, and access to care is particularly difficult among communities of need, including the elderly and people with lower incomes,” said Torney Smith, Administrator, Spokane Regional Health District. “To reduce oral health disparities, we have to take a holistic approach that starts with preventing oral disease in children and ensuring that adults who have oral disease have access to care.”
In conjunction with Teeth Week, access to care will be provided by the SmileMobile, which will offer no-cost dental services for adults on October 6-8 at The Salvation Army, 204 East Indiana Ave., Spokane. Appointments are reserved for adults with emergent dental care needs and without access to a dentist. To make an appointment call 509-904-7709 between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, September 27-October 5.
The SmileMobile is a three-chair mobile dental care unit operated by Arcora Foundation, formerly Washington Dental Service Foundation, in partnership with nonprofit Delta Dental of Washington, the state’s largest dental benefits company, which founded and fully funds the Foundation.
In addition to the Smile Mobile, Smile Spokane and the City of Spokane are sponsoring a social media blitz during Teeth Week, including contests to win gift cards to local restaurants. A complete social media toolkit is located on the Smile Spokane website at www.smilespokane.org.
The Spokane Oral Health Local Impact Network (LIN) will work to reduce health disparities through seven anchor strategies:
- coordinating community care,
- improving opioid prescription practices and other prevention efforts,
- integrating oral health into 100% of primary care,
- increasing access to dental services by 200% for adults on Medicaid and seniors,
- developing school sealant programs in all schools where the majority of students are enrolled in free and reduced meal programs,
- Coordinating a referral network for primary care, behavioral health, and oral health services on supportive housing campuses,
- and community education.
The LIN is funded in part by Arcora Foundation, which has committed $1.2 million in 2017 that will be used to generate more resources and help identify specific ways to implement each strategy.
There are many reasons for the focus on oral health. Even though it is almost entirely preventable, oral disease is widespread. Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease of early childhood, and children can’t sleep, eat, learn or even play if they are in pain from dental disease. Two-thirds of older adults have moderate or severe gum disease, which is linked to other chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Oral health also affects employment opportunities and quality of life, and the prevention and early treatment of oral disease saves money for families, businesses and taxpayers. Every cavity prevented saves more than $2,000 over a lifetime.
Dental disease at a young age can have profound lifelong consequences. If children have cavities in baby teeth they are more likely to have cavities in their permanent teeth. This could result in ongoing, potentially costly, dental problems that affect appearance, health and employability.
It is important for pregnant women to get dental care because a bad tooth or gum infection can spread, leading to a serious health problem and complications including low birth weight and premature birth. After a child is born, the infectious germs that cause cavities can be passed from mother to child.
Seniors are especially vulnerable to gum disease in part because medications they take can cause dry mouth. Gum disease leads to tooth loss, bad breath and an inability to eat nutritious foods. This can have a devastating effect on the health of older adults. And Medicare does not cover dental costs, so preventing oral disease is hugely important.