About Teeth Doctors
Oral healthcare is defined as the ability to carry out the most basic human functions – eating, drinking, speaking, smiling, laughing and kissing – without pain or disease of the mouth and the craniofacial structures. It is an integral component of general health and enables individuals to achieve their fullest potential by providing them with the capacity to eat, sleep and communicate effectively.
While many people know that they should brush their teeth twice daily and floss, or visit the dentist regularly, this knowledge is not enough to improve oral health outcomes in the United States. In 2000, Surgeon General David Satcher released a report on the state of oral health in America, which emphasized that oral disease is a significant and persistent threat to overall well-being. The report also uncovered inequalities in access to dental care and the quality of that care, which are influenced by social and economic factors.
Over the past 20 years, we have gained greater understanding of the underlying causes of these inequalities and how they work together to shape people’s experiences with oral disease, including how the quality and cost of healthcare affects their likelihood of receiving effective prevention or treatment. We have also come to realize that a number of medical conditions have important oral manifestations and, conversely, the condition of the mouth can be an early indicator of other health problems such as heart disease or diabetes.
In addition, we have learned that a number of medications, particularly those used for mental illness (both acute and chronic) can cause or worsen oral symptoms, as can the effects of aging. These findings reinforce the importance of addressing these root causes of poor oral health, in conjunction with prevention and intervention strategies.
The Division of Oral healthcare works to ensure that all Illinoisans are able to receive the necessary services and education to maintain healthy mouths and bodies. We focus on surveillance, policy development, community partnerships, education/awareness and oral health infrastructure development. Our programs include community water fluoridation, infant/child oral health, oral cancer, tobacco control, craniofacial anomalies, orofacial trauma and school-based oral health initiatives.
Dental care is a necessary element of an individual’s overall health, yet millions of Americans do not have adequate access to it. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many insurance programs do not cover dental care for adults, and that access to oral health professionals is limited.
To address these challenges, we must continue to explore innovative ways to increase access to preventive and restorative dental care. This includes expanding the scope of practice for oral health aides and paraprofessionals, relaxing supervision requirements, supporting teledentistry, and expanding provision of care in federally qualified health centers. Additionally, integrating dental and medical records allows healthcare providers to better understand their patients’ underlying health conditions at the point of care and can lead to more streamlined care and improved outcomes. This will require collaboration across a variety of sectors and will require new thinking to develop creative solutions.