Educating the public and preventing tooth decay

It’s no surprise, Kentucky still lags behind the rest of the nation in several categories having to do with oral health. Did you know tooth decay affects more than just your mouth? It’s been linked to diseases that put vital organs in danger. It can damage self-confidence, too, but a local college is working to stop these problems before they start.

The issues keeping people out of the dentist’s chair haven’t changed: the high cost of care, limited access, and a lack of preventative care. These are all challenges the dental clinic at West Kentucky Community and Technical College is working to change.

Dental hygienist and clinical instructor Wendy Rumsey does final checks on patients who have had cleanings done by college students. “It’s a very good experience,” said Myra Wiggins. She said the price enticed her to come: $45 for adults and $35 for seniors and students. Her husband is a veteran, so his services are free. She said, “we appreciate this service they provide.”

The clinic offers preventative care, which Rumsey said is always less expensive in the long run. But, they don’t have enough chairs to meet the growing need. She said, “We aren’t able to see the numbers of people that need the preventive care.”

As part of a college, what they are able to do is educate. Dr. Chris Howard with the program describes tooth decay as an infection that can be linked to stroke and heart disease. He said, “It can cause a clogging in the arteries in the heart.” It can also complicate diabetes.

Tooth decay has negative economic and social effects as well. “If you have visible decay, someone is not going to be confident or have the self-esteem to work in the public eye,” said Rumsey. These are all problems the clinic is working to alleviate one patient at a time.

The Centers for Disease Control say 99.9 percent of people in Kentucky are served by water systems that fluoridate tap water. Keep in mind, bottled and well water may not have the fluoride in it your child needs to help fight tooth decay.


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