During February’s National Dental Health Month, the Will County Health Department’s (WCHD) Community Health Center Dental Unit is fighting dental illnesses both at its 1106 Neal Avenue clinic location and also with their mobile unit.
Chief Dental Officer Dr. Sangita Garg says everyone needs to remember that good oral health helps prevent other illnesses as well. “Simply you cannot have good health with bad teeth.” And one disease that good oral health can help prevent, or certainly help keep from getting worse, is diabetes.
Diabetes alone is serious enough, as it affects 29.1 million people (9.3 percent of the national population) and is the seventh leading cause of death according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is a bi-directional relationship between gum disease and diabetes. This means that gum disease can raise the blood sugar levels of those without diabetes. For those already considered pre-diabetic, such as having a strong history of it in their families, this can especially be a major factor.
“Those with diabetes or pre-diabetes especially need to be seen by dental professionals,” said Dr. Garg. “It is a cycle where blood sugar in the gums can make you pre-exposed to dental disease. And then bad oral habits just make the cycle even worse. Good oral habits are indeed crucial to your health.”
In addition to the connection of bad oral health to diabetes, major diseases can occur in your mouth as well. A common gum disease is periodontitis, which damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. It can cause teeth to loosen, become dangerously mobile, and end up being lost. But like other dental health illnesses, good habits are a great preventative measure. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular checkups can greatly reduce your chances of bad oral health.
WCHD Community Health Center Dental Assistant Evonne Foster and Mobile Dental Van Driver Tammy Cleary (posing as the Tooth Fairy) make a recent educational visit to the Early Learning Center in Joliet.
And because good oral health habits are so crucial, the Community Health Center’s (CHC) Mobile Dental Van continues to bring treatment to residents throughout Will County. Within the last year, two major things happened to help keep the mobile unit’s mission alive. First, when the van needed a new driver, CHC employee Tammy Cleary took the initiative to get her CDL license. She is now not only the Mobile Dental Van’s driver, but she also handles the scheduling. Then, the CHC received a grant from the United Way to provide more dental services to the uninsured and underprivileged.
Information about the Community Health Center Mobile Dental Van is available by calling 815-258-4322.
Various area schools (such as Rockdale, Elwood, Fairmont, Reed in Homer Glen) are currently on the van’s schedule. It also visits daycare centers, shelters, and rehab centers. All these places, Dr. Garg says, is where they find Will County residents, younger and older, who need dental care the most. For a child, it could possibly be their first ever trip to a dentist, especially if their family is new in the United States and still getting settled.
But when it comes to older patients, the situation can be even more serious. “I have seen adults we’ve taken care of in the Mobile Dental Van, often middle-aged or older, who do not remember their last visit to the dentist. One adult patient had tarter buildup so badly that I could not see his actual teeth. He had not had a professional cleaning for over 30 years.”
For information about scheduling a visit from the WCHD Community Health Center Mobile Dental Van, call 815-258-4322. To make an appointment to receive a complete assessment of your dental health at the CHC, call 815-774-7300. More information on dental and overall health can be found at the WCHD website, www.willcountyhealth.org. You can also find additional information by googling “American Dental Association dental tips.”