While the volume of routine dental appointments has declined throughout the pandemic, risks for oral health problems have not. In my experience, I’ve seen a growing trend of serious oral hygiene problems such as gum disease, cavities and even infections over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have put dental care on the back burner, and it’s putting their oral health at risk.
To avoid these problems, we must recognize that our oral health is an important part of overall physical health. October is Dental Hygiene Month, and as a dentist and physician, I want to remind Floridians to be mindful of their dental hygiene habits and see a dentist regularly.
There is a connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body. Studies confirm a link between common oral health problems and other health complications, such as cardiovascular concerns, stroke, and increased risks during pregnancy.
The good news is the early stages of most oral health problems often are reversible. In most cases, these issues can be resolved with regular dental visits and better care at home. That’s why prevention is so important. Dental providers can help identify problems with your gums or teeth before they become more serious.
However, as a parent I understand firsthand how challenging it can be to get your family to health appointments, and that has become even harder during the pandemic. Many people have faced economic challenges, while others have experienced challenging health conditions. Others have skipped routine visits because they couldn’t find someone to watch their kids or weren’t able to get rides to appointments.
At LIBERTY Dental, we saw this growing need and started the Community Smiles program last year to help struggling Floridians connect with local resources.
The Community Smiles program helps LIBERTY enrollees find free or reduced-cost community programs to overcome barriers to better care. Enrollees can search for free or reduced-cost resources such as food, housing, and health and dental care, all from the comfort of their homes.
Our program has been a much-needed lifeline for Floridians in search of basic resources. It has served thousands of people during the pandemic.
There are many barriers that keep people from receiving necessary care. For some people, that might be their jobs, where they live, or where their kids go to school. These barriers can lead to poor oral and physical health, along with untreated dental diseases. Sometimes, barriers to care even can cause days missed from work and school.
We believe these factors shouldn’t get in the way of receiving good care. When we come together as a community to help our neighbors, we can overcome these barriers and live healthier and happier lives.
For more information about the Community Smiles program, text LDPSMILES to 22925, or to find a LIBERTY Dental Plan of Florida provider near you, see LibertyDentalPlan.com.
Dr. Rosie Roldan is a board-certified pediatric dentist and a licensed physician. She is vice president of Florida Clinical Affairs and Dental Wellness for LIBERTY Dental Plan of Florida Inc.