Thursday, October 6, 2022

Oral Health in the Black Community

August 9, 2022 by  
Filed under Conversation

For Liberty Dental Plan, the lives and oral health of the Black community matter. Many don’t realize that poor oral health can lead to a loss of productivity. Children and adults can miss time from school and work. Gum disease that is active and left untreated can lead to tooth loss. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease from plaque entering the heart, arteries, and blood vessels, and can also lead to oral and throat cancers. It can contribute to diabetes by causing higher than normal blood sugar levels. During pregnancy, poor oral health can cause pregnancy complications including preterm birth, low birth weight, or infections in newborns. 

How does oral health impact the Black community? The Black community has lower rates of dental care and higher rates of gum disease than in other racial/ethnic groups. Black men have higher rates of death from throat and mouth cancers. Higher rates of chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease, which can be worsened by poor oral health, are found in the Black community. Black women experience significantly higher rates of birth complications and maternal mortality than other groups. 

What can you do to improve your oral health and overall health? Brush your teeth a minimum of twice a day and floss daily. Visit the dentist twice a year (or every six months) for check-ups. Use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen tooth enamel and protect against bacteria-causing decay. Replace your toothbrush once the bristles become frayed or at least every 3-4 months. Try using a tongue scraper or brush your tongue to eliminate harmful bacteria. Drink water and limit the amount of sugary sodas, juices, and acidic foods you eat to prevent cavities. Try using a fluoride mouthwash daily to help get to the hard-to-reach spots brushing and flossing may not reach. Ask your dentist about taking a liquid mineral supplement to help strengthen your teeth internally. Last but not least, eat vitamin- and mineral-rich whole foods. Avoid sugar, processed foods, and coffee. 

How can Liberty help? Liberty Dental Plan is a dental benefit administrator that values our members’ oral health and overall well-being. We are one of the nation’s largest insurers for government programs — including Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare Advantage. We are dedicated to improving the oral health and well-being of vulnerable population groups. 

Liberty helps members establish the right dental home, which supports the patient-provider relationship and builds trust. Liberty helps members schedule appointments and transportation services to and from the dental office at no charge. Liberty works with local schools, school-based providers, and mobile clinics to engage with and educate children about the importance of oral health. We come out to the community to serve the community. Services provided include dental sealants and fluoride varnish. Bringing qualified dental providers directly to schools helps to eliminate the need for parents/caregivers to take time off from work. 

Our Community Outreach team helps to educate potential members on their eligibility for federally funded programs while bringing awareness to community offerings for both potential and existing members alike. Liberty’s Community Smiles Program connects members to free and low-cost resources — including healthy food, housing, transportation, training and more — to help the communities we serve overcome some of the barriers to good oral and physical health.

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