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It’s Time for Oral Health for Everyone.

Good oral health is essential for maintaining good overall health. According to the American Dental Association, 1 in 5 adult North Carolinians avoid smiling due to the condition of their mouth and teeth, and 15% of adult North Carolinians experience anxiety due to the condition of their mouth and teeth. Furthermore, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Division reports that 15.3% of NC kindergarten children have untreated tooth decay. Children from poorer and more rural counties tend to have the highest rates of decay. In addition to low self-esteem, mental distress, and mouth dysfunction, gum disease is specifically linked to chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Poor oral health is increasingly associated with diabetes, cancer, lung and heart disease, premature births, and progression of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and dementia.

Two decades ago, a seminal public health report was released highlighting the need for essential services to improve oral health in the United States. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., released “Oral Health in America” in 2000, and described a “silent epidemic” of oral health diseases that largely impacted the nation’s poorer and non-white population. These outcomes were documented even in an era where fluoridation in most public water sources was complete, and further highlighted the delineation of income and wealth as a critical factor in the preva