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Dental Care is Essential Care: The Importance of Getting Back on Track with Your Oral Healthcare

Over the past year and a half, many of us have taken “business casual” to new lengths, working in sweatpants or pajamas and forgoing many of our usual self-care routines. While we lamented closed shops and salons, many of us also glossed over missed appointments with our physicians and —our dentists. The COVID-19 pandemic may have placed a spotlight on health, however physical restrictions resulted in missed dental checkups that, according to the Cleveland Clinic, could result in a significant deterioration in our oral health.

This neglect is particularly worrisome given the wide array of research demonstrating a strong connection between our oral health and general health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research cites numerous studies that have found links between oral conditions like periodontal (gum) disease, and several chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Mouth-borne infections can also spread to other parts of the body. Because diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other diseases can lower the body’s resistance to infection, oral health problems often lead to severe health conditions. Additionally, pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering preterm and/or low-birthweight infants.

It is no secret that the stress over these past eighteen months has taken its toll on the health of our mouths.

But in truth, American oral health was in decay even before the pandemic. Research showed that more than one-quarter of U.S. adults live with untreated tooth decay, with nearly half of adults over 30 showing signs of gum disease. Children, too, are affected, as dental cavities are the No. 1 chronic disease among children in California and around the nation. A lost year — or more — of pediatric dental check-ups could result in numerous consequences in our children’s oral health for many years to come, and even into their adulthood.

Perhaps no group than our seniors has been more affected by the lack of regular dental appointments. For many older adults, having few or no teeth adversely impacts their quality of life every day. Seniors often report being embarrassed about their teeth, reducing social participation due to their mouths’ condition and appearance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that such social isolation is directly linked to serious health conditions. Tooth loss can make chewing and eating difficult as well.

The mouth is widely considered a gateway to overall health for all members of the population. Because people typically see their dentist more often than their primary care physician, the dental profession maintains a unique opportunity to screen and consult on a variety of health-related concerns beyond the teeth. Dentists are always on the lookout for signs of oral cancer of the mouth or tongue. Many now take patient blood pressure as part of twice-annual checkups and before specific appointments.

Given the importance of good oral health, now is the time to schedule an appointment with your dentist. Visit your dental provider or establish a relationship with a new dentist for now and in the future. Schedules are filling up so there’s no time to waste in making this critical appointment for your personal health and the general wellbeing of your family.

In the Bay Area, close to 20,000 individual patients from every background regularly visit the dental clinics at the University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in downtown San Francisco. According to the Dugoni School Year in Review, the conveniently located clinics, with an impressive 207 dental chairs, received more than 70,000 patient visits during the 2019-20 academic year. The school pivoted during the pandemic, putting a crisis management team in place that met daily. After a short closure period, the school carefully reopened to patients and students, with its mission to help people lead healthy lives always in mind

Today, comprehensive oral healthcare continues to be provided for children and adults of all ages by dental students and residents under faculty supervision. Costs remain approximately 30-40% less than that of a typical Bay Area private dental practice. Services cover all aspects of oral health, including emergency care, check-ups, cleanings, fillings, orthodontic treatment, dentures, implants, and much more. Call (415) 929-6501 for an appointment or visit the school’s Dental Services website to learn more about the clinics.

2021 marks the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s 125th anniversary. Since its 1896 founding, the school has played its part in the story of San Francisco, from providing emergency healthcare services in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake to hosting a simulated licensure exam for students in the face of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to providing much-needed life-saving COVID-19 vaccines to the public. Throughout the decades it has remained focused on making comprehensive oral healthcare available to all members of the community. Today the Dugoni School clinics are prepared to safely welcome back Bay Area residents interested in improving their lives through better oral healthcare. Visit the Dugoni School website to learn more.

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