Each August during Oral Health Awareness Month, Missourians are invited to take stock of our health.
Thinking about our individual health can be difficult. We are too busy, but we know if we feel well. What many do not know, however, is that without good oral health, we cannot be healthy. An unhealthy mouth contributes to poor health.
Thinking about community health is challenging. It is hard to spot that many people cannot access dental care, but that leads to unpleasant realities, including lost teeth, difficulty finding and keeping a job, and trips to the ER for untreated dental conditions, which can, in turn, lead to other challenges, including the use of highly addictive opioids for pain.
Missouri has taken some good steps to move in the right direction, including providing dental coverage for adults eligible for Missouri Medicaid starting in 2016. Thousands of people are getting dental care, making up for years without and improving health while cutting down on ER usage and opioid addiction.
Challenges continue, however. The adjustment of fluoride in community water reduces cavities for all, saving money, time and pain. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in many water supplies. To safely support health, fluoride has been added to water supplies for nearly 75 years, with excellent results. Every community water supply in Missouri should step up and do the same.
Oral health is the concern of everyone. Let community leaders know you want them working for the good of the community.
Gary Harbison • Jefferson City
Executive director, Missouri Coalition for Oral Health