Toothaches are leading to pricey Colo. ER visits

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CLOSE TO HOME: RESPONDING TO SEXUAL ASSAULT IN OUR COMMUNITY

Southwest Life

Toothaches are leading to pricey Colo. ER visits

‘Silent epidemic’ costs more than $100M nationally
Patient Vesha Gilbert says she learned a lesson after having to make an emergency visit for tooth pain: She’s going to floss and brush regularly. Dentist Bianca Hillers works on Gilbert’s decayed molar at Denver Health’s Webb Clinic.
Rural residents impacted most

People living in rural parts of the state tend to skip the dentist more often and have the toughest time finding dental care – in part because nine of the Colorado’s 64 counties have no resident dentist.

These counties are Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Costilla, Hinsdale, Gilpin, Jackson, Kiowa and San Juan, where Silverton is the county seat.

To compound the problem, a dozen counties do not have a dental hygienist who could perform routine checkups and cleanings. Most of these counties have populations of 3,000 people or fewer.

“That’s not a lot of people to support a practice, when you consider only half of them will even go to a dentist,” said Ken Peters, president of the Colorado Dental Association.







The association is working on a plan to send young dentists to Colorado’s underserved areas. Presently, 2½ times more dentists graduate every year than there are jobs to be filled.

Further complicating the access issue: Residents of rural areas are less likely than urbanites to carry dental health insurance. The Colorado Health Access Survey found nearly 60 percent of those who live in the southwest corner of the state go without dental coverage, compared to 29 percent along the Front Range. In the other three corners, half don’t have dental insurance. People who live in rural Colorado often pay out of pocket for any oral health problems, and are also likely driving a long way to get care.

Katya Mauritson, oral health director for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the rural residents also miss out on another dental advantage: Their water may not contain the cavity-fighting additive fluoride.

“One of the biggest public-health interventions of the 20th century is water fluoridation,” she said.

Toothaches are leading to pricey Colo. ER visits

Patient Vesha Gilbert says she learned a lesson after having to make an emergency visit for tooth pain: She’s going to floss and brush regularly. Dentist Bianca Hillers works on Gilbert’s decayed molar at Denver Health’s Webb Clinic.
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