While many Coloradans focus on their New Years resolutions, community and public-health leaders across the state are pledging to improve the oral health of all Coloradans.
Diseases of the mouth get little attention compared to many other medical issues, but these diseases directly impact the economic health of our state. Oral diseases, pain and infections account for 164 million lost work hours nationally and about 7.8 million lost school hours in Colorado. Because oral diseases are almost entirely preventable, this is a public-health and finance battle we can and must win.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is focusing on improving oral health, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently named oral health one of 10 winnable battles. Many foundations, nonprofits and individual dentists have committed resources to helping Coloradans maintain good oral health; especially those who can least afford dental care.
Delta Dental of Colorado joined the battle by launching a $3 million fund to provide two years of free dental insurance to needy people across the state. The Delta Dental of Colorado Fund is approaching its three-month anniversary, and already more than 3,500 Coloradans have signed up for assistance.
In Colorado, 42 percent of adults lack dental insurance. Research shows that a vast majority of people who have dental insurance report seeing a dentist twice a year or more. These regular checkups are a crucial component to maintaining good oral health and one that is all too often abandoned when times are tight.
Like other public-health issues, residents of low socio-economic status often find themselves receiving emergency dental care rather than the preventive care that helps to head off more-expensive problems and medical complications.
Good oral health and access to quality dental care is a problem that is completely within our grasp to solve. Through innovative public-private partnerships, dedicated health professionals and the support of educated community members, we will achieve real change and improved oral health for all Coloradans.
Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Kate Paul, president and chief executive officer, Delta Dental of Colorado