The consequences of poor dental health extend far past the mouth.
Oral health is “interconnected with overall health and well-being,” according to the American Society on Aging, and is directly linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary health.
In Greenwood County, poor oral health among adults is a serious issue, according to the 2016 Self Regional Community Health Needs Assessment.
About 17 percent of all County residents older than 18 had poor dental health as of 2013, the assessment said.
The assessment also found that residents of Greenwood had poor access to dental health.
In order to combat this, the health and wellness branch of the Community Indicators Project -- a nonprofit that aims at increasing quality of life -- is launching a campaign to improve dental health throughout the county.
The health and wellness task force, which is made up of a number of organizations throughout the area including Self Regional Healthcare, Healthy Learners, Community Initiatives and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, is working to spread awareness of the effects of poor dental care and make it more accessible to uninsured people in the area, according to Task Force Leader Selynto Anderson.
“There are so many people in our area who don’t have dental insurance,” said Anderson, the manager of prevention and wellness at Self Regional. “So we’re looking at ways for people in the county to be able to go and get dental care.”
Teresa Goodman, the task force secretary and executive director of Community Initiatives, said the collaborative is exploring a number of options to bring dental care to more people, such as using telehealth, home visitations and collaboration with local dentists to expand access to dental health care.
”We’re looking at all types of initiatives that are being done to address the problem, because it’s not just a local problem but a state problem and a national problem,” she said. “There have been some places in South Carolina that have found some answers, so we’re looking at those models to see what fits best for the Greenwood community.”
Goodman said she’s excited to see the effort to expand dental care, as well as all of the other initiatives from the Community Indicators Project, moving forward.
“They’re going to make the quality of life for Greenwood residents better,” Goodman said. “We’re excited about the program and we think it’s going to do great things, we really do. We want to utilize the people who we already have here who are doing the work and we also want to reach the folks who have no idea this work is being done so we can help them.”
Contact staff writer Conor Hughes at 864-943-2511 or on Twitter @IJConorHughes.