Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinic Highlights Struggle of Many to Obtain Dental Care

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinic Highlights Struggle of Many to Obtain Dental Care

Article excerpt

Early this month, a long line stretched a block back from the doors of Chaifetz Arena. Some individuals in this line arrived the night before the clinic opened. Many of them were in pain. Many of them had experienced this pain for years. Many had nowhere else to turn. By Saturday night, more than 1,600 underserved members of our community received an important and, possibly life-changing donation free dental care.

Health care providers from across the state, including dentists, hygienists, assistants, lab technicians, physicians, nurses and many nondental community volunteers, hosted St. Louis' first Missouri Mission of Mercy. The third Mission of Mercy in the state, this large-scale dental clinic provided free oral health care to patients who cannot otherwise obtain it.

The high volume of patients participating in MOMOM and other charitable dental clinics and events shine a spotlight on the fact that many Missourians are in desperate need of dental care, which is essential to maintaining good overall health. To see this great need in person is an overwhelming experience. Healthy teeth and gums aren't a luxury they're essential to overall health and well- being.

Dental hygiene and preventive dental care are critical to keeping teeth and gums healthy. Lack of treatment can lead to infection, and gum disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, premature births and low birthweight. Poor dental health beyond the physical pain one can experience can cause serious roadblocks to a high quality of life. Children can miss school. Adults can miss work or even have trouble finding work.

State government assistance programs created to help those in need are shockingly inadequate in helping Missourians. Without sufficient support from charitable sources, many go without preventive care. Without regular cleanings and early detection of potential problems, more serious health complications will require more expensive treatment.

The cost of health care falls to someone, whether it's the individual or society as a whole. Since 2005, the Missouri budget has contained no funding for adult dental care. …

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