Dental programs spread smiles

Published 9:24 pm Monday, February 9, 2015

If there’s a medical expense that’s a prime candidate to be put off, it’s dental care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2005 and 2008, almost one in four between the ages of 20 and 64 had decaying teeth.

Also, six in 10 between the ages of 18 and 64 visited the dentist in 2012. The four in 10 that didn’t probably haven’t been to the dentist in years, I’d wager.

Email newsletter signup

When it comes to medical expenses, teeth often fall to the bottom of the list. I’ll go to the dentist next year, folks say, only to say the same thing when “next year” rolls around.

Another statistic reported by the CDC gets to the root of this wholesale neglect of our pearly whites: About 45 million Americans had no dental insurance coverage in 2008.

The good news is there are people working to bring free dental care to communities. In Suffolk, they include those volunteering with The Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Mission of Mercy program, and The Hampton Roads Community Health Center.

The Mission of Mercy program returns to King’s Fork Middle School on Feb. 28, when volunteers hope to fix or enhance the smiles of 700 adults.

Dentists and technicians coming in from throughout Hampton Roads and beyond will perform fillings, extractions and cleanings, and a limited number of dentures will be available.

The clinic opens at 6:30 a.m., and folks are asked to bring any medications they’re on, for the pre-screening, and be prepared to stay in the school’s gymnasium all day.

This Friday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for folks needing dentures to pre-register. Call 284-7009.

Whereas Mission of Mercy is for adults, the other community dental program is helping children. Funded by the Obici Healthcare Foundation, the community health center’s Robin Langston has teamed up with the Suffolk unit of the Boys and Girls Club, and hopes to also line up after-school locations with the YMCA and Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

The dental stats for children are better than for adults. For instance, less than two in 10 between the ages of 6 and 19 had decaying teeth, and more than eight in 10 between the ages of 2 and 17 had visited the dentist in the past year.

At least that indicates parents tend to put their children’s teeth ahead of their own, which is as it should be.

It’s just a pity they have to choose at all.