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Blacks Can’t Afford to Ignore Dental Health

Julianne Malveaux | 5/18/2018, 6 a.m.
While Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide a safety net access to dental care is a big ...

Mental health and dental health are the two parts of healthcare that are most frequently ignored. It is not enough to simply get an annual checkup. Increasing research shows that mental health and physical health are inextricably intertwined. Dental health, all too frequently,

is ignored. Even those with “good” health insurance may have limited dental insurance. And lower-income folks rely on Medicaid and CHIP, but may not have anywhere to go to get the help they need.

Dental practitioners like Dr. Earle, a second-generation Meharry-trained dentist, stand in the gap for those who may not have access to healthcare. In her role as Managing Dental Director for Kool Smiles, Earle says, “Sharing Smiles Day is an opportunity for our dentists and staff to put a smile back on the faces of children who need dental care but whose families cannot afford it.”

Kool Smile’s effort to see 500 or more children on May 20 doesn’t begin to deal with the enormity of the challenge, but it’s an effort that will make a big difference for the children who are treated. It’s also an opportunity for us to reflect on the importance of dental health that the role that organizations like Kool Smiles can play in closing the dental health gap.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Kool Smiles and their dental service organization, Benevis, on a program called Watch Yo’ Mouth, featuring Dr. Earle and healthy living author Debra Peek-Haynes. We plan to offer more of these programs in coming months. Meanwhile, though, I am excited about Sharing Smiles Day and about developing ways more low-income children can have access to dental care, so that there can be a healthy smile for every child in our nation.

Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist and founder of Economic Education. Follow Dr. Malveaux on Twitter @drjlastword.