Reynolds and Miller: Why we can’t neglect dental care during the pandemic | Columnists

Alonzo Osche

While we focus on vaccinating more Virginians, there is another critical area of our health that must not be overlooked amid the pandemic: dental care.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people have been delaying their regular visits to the dentist over virus-related concerns. But the worry is largely misplaced.

Not only have dental offices throughout the commonwealth been leading the way in implementing a comprehensive array of safety measures, but patients should be aware that forestalling dental visits introduces risks that can lead to more serious dental consequences as well as overall health conditions.

Unfortunately, our oral health often does not receive the priority that it merits, when in fact, a healthy body starts with a healthy mouth.

Oral health touches every part of our lives, and studies indicate that serious health conditions, including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, can be tied to poor oral health, particularly among individuals whose oral care has been so neglectful that they no longer have teeth.

What’s more, painful conditions like a tooth abscess can spread beyond the mouth and affect the brain with serious complications. It’s commonly understood amid the medical community that the mouth is a window to systemic health.

Even before the pandemic, access to oral healthcare has been challenging, particularly here in Southwest Virginia. Not only does the region suffer from a lack of dental practices – we have fewer than half the per capita number of dentists as Virginia as a whole – but the affordability of care is a predominant factor, a fact that has been compounded by the economic impact of COVID.

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