A silent epidemic is hidden in plain sight in the United States: Massive gaps exist in oral health care. More than 130 million of us lack basic dental benefits, and a growing number of us live in communities where few, if any, dentists practice. This crisis is especially prevalent in inner city and rural areas, and in Indian Country. And this is not simply an issue of filling cavities or root canals: Oral health is directly tied to overall health. Illnesses and conditions related to poor oral health affect millions of people of all ages. Periodontal disease is linked to preterm birth and low-weight babies, and a broad range of life-threatening conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia and strokes.
Like a patient ignoring a toothache until it threatens overall health, our country cannot afford to continue neglecting this silent epidemic. Thankfully, an innovative approach exists: DENTAL THERAPISTS.