As a recent Master of Public Health graduate from the University of Louisville (U of L), I spent the past two years focusing on prevention as the key to alleviate health issues. However, I don’t recall having any discussions about oral health during my time at U of L. Unfortunately, oral health was not considered a “hot issue” in my program, so I wasn’t aware of the oral health problems that Kentuckians face until my recent engagement with the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition (KOHC). KOHC is a coalition of concerned citizens, advocates, and dental and other professionals working together to fulfill a mission to improve the oral health of all of the people of Kentucky. You can learn how to get involved by visiting the website at www.kyoralhealthcoalition.org.
Health care availability and access is important, and it’s also important for individuals to take charge of their health in order to maintain a healthy life. Routine oral health care is essential for all individuals to maintain their overall health and well-being. Kentuckians need to know that poor oral health can lead to negative effects on a person’s quality of life due to pain and suffering caused by oral health problems, as well as negative effects on his/her speech and nutrition. Poor oral health can also affect a person’s ability to work and sleep. Studies have shown that poor oral health can increase the risk of infections, heart disease, pre-term birth, pancreatic disease, death, and the list goes on….
Recently, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky released the results of a Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) about oral health care in Kentucky, which included questions about dental insurance, dental visits, unpaid dental bills and having a usual source of oral healthcare. The poll revealed that just over half (51%) of Kentucky adults reported having dental insurance coverage, and almost eight in ten (79%) of those without a personal dentist or oral health provider indicated they had last visited a dentist or dental clinic more than five years ago.
Having dental insurance is a vital component of accessing oral health care. Individuals who have an established relationship for receipt of care, such as a dentist, clinic, health center or another health care provider, are more likely to seek appropriate oral health care when necessary. It’s essential for individuals to have regular and preventive oral health care in order to alleviate the minor problems.
Millions of dollars can be saved in the treatment of both oral and overall health issues by a small investment in routine preventive oral health care beginning at a very young age. This poll sheds light on oral health and can help initiate conversations to turn the tide on oral health in Kentucky.