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Michigan Can Do More to Increase Access to Dental Care

By: Dr. Traci J. Dantzler, DDS  

Thousands of Michiganders – from Flint to Lansing to the Upper Peninsula – go without dental insurance each year, which can lead to significant health risks. Moreover, only 66% of Michiganders age 33 to 44 still have all their teeth and nearly one in eight of older adults have lost all their natural teeth. Oral infections can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the heart, creating even greater health risks.

For children, oral health can significantly impact their overall health, learning and development. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of early childhood. Although it can be prevented, one in four children have tooth decay by age five. For children of color, these statistics are even worse. From the time the very first tooth comes in, babies and young children with baby teeth benefit from preventive dental care. Decayed baby teeth can impact a child’s overall health and development, which is why it’s important to create proper brushing habits and schedule regular dental exams for children.

As a dentist in Flint and a member of the Genesee Health Plan Oral Health Coalition, I know firsthand how important it is to connect people to oral health services. I often see patients who have gone without preventive dental care for many years. However, when they receive regular dental exams and cleanings, it gives them peace of mind knowing they’re receiving the care they need while also helping to prevent a potential health related problem down the road.

Michigan residents deserve access to quality dental care, yet there are many obstacles that prevent children, adults and seniors from receiving the care they need. Research shows people of color and rural Michiganders receive dental care at rates well below the state average, as do Michiganders at lower income and education levels. We can do better to make sure all people have access to regular preventive dental care including dental cleanings, exams and X-rays.

The Genesee Health Plan Oral Health Coalition has partnered with the Michigan Oral Health Coalition to present the 2019 Central Michigan Oral Health Summit on Friday, June 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mott Community College. This free summit is an opportunity for community members including dental and medical professionals to learn about oral health and its impact on physical health and wellbeing.

This summit will cover critical topics including maternal and infant oral health, fluoride in the water, health conditions caused by poor oral health, how oral health impacts overall health of the body, and the Flint Water Crisis’ impact on oral health.

Oral health is vital to overall health at every age, and we can do more to ensure that everyone has access to preventive dental care. Without coverage, children, adults and seniors face significant risks for tooth decay and disease. The Central Michigan Oral Health Summit is an opportunity for the community to come together and learn about the ways we can connect people to the dental care services they need.

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