Oral Health is connected to Overall Health
“Oral health is connected to overall health” according to Community Crossroad’s Director of Oral Health Services, Angela Boyle. That statement is the foundation for an innovative and life-changing at Community Crossroads.
This cost effective approach to keeping those in the community healthy began when the Board of Directors committed to making the oral health needs of those individuals served by the area agency a priority. They recognized disparities in oral health for our individuals. Angela spent considerable time discussing with the inter-agency coordinators, families, individuals and other agencies responsible for providing supports and services as to what the largest barriers to good oral health. Three main barriers related to access, prevention and education were discovered.
A large barrier contributing to lack of oral health is directly related to our state dental policy. In NH, anyone over 21 year of age and who is served by Medicaid, has limited access to dental services. Our State’s Medicaid Dental Plan covers pain, infection and extractions only for anyone who is 21 years or older. Those under 21 are eligible for comprehensive dental care.
According to a report from The National Advisory Council on Dental Health, short term impacts of not having proper oral healthcare include having a lot of discomfort, trouble with sleeping, trouble with eating and spending a lot of money to have problems fixed in situations where proper oral healthcare would be more cost effective. Long-term, people who don’t have proper oral healthcare could face anxiety and depression due to the way the person looks or feels, infections that lead to heart and lung diseases and a setback when it comes to making social relationships with others.
[Pictured Above: Angela with portable exam chair and tools]
This cost-effective program addresses the three top challenges for attaining oral health for individuals served by our area agency, access, education and prevention. Whether it is going into someone’s home for an appointment due to transportation issues, having good relationships with local dental offices or educating children at our Annual Kids Carnival in February (which happens to be National Children’s Dental Health Month).
Community partnerships have been critical to the success of this program.. All the dental equipment necessary for Angela to do her work are from community grants. Thanks to places such as the Rotary Club of Salem, Northeast Delta Dental and other generous organizations, partnerships have allowed this program to thrive. In addition, here at Community Crossroads we have an annual “100 Smiles for the Holidays/New” fundraising campaign. To learn more about that program [ or it’s not too late to donate], visit http://www.communitycrossroadsnh.org/specialized-services/smilescampaign/
In terms of the future of the program, Angela is focused on keeping the program sustainable and reaching out to communities and area agencies we may not serve to offer this cost-effective approach to other agencies who may have individuals that are experiencing difficulty attaining oral health. The reason for the latter being that we look at individuals comprehensively and meet their needs.
Angela often refers to the healthcare industry historically “removing the head from the rest of the body” and addressing all other health needs. Unfortunately, the mouth, ears, vision and mental health are not typically considered. This program helps to put the head back on the body and integrates a comprehensive approach to oral health by considering the whole individual and adapting to meet them where they are in their life course.