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Lack of dental care access leads to other health problems in southeast Mo.

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:28 PM CDT
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DEXTER, Mo. (KFVS) - Access to dental care and the number of people willing to go to the dentist has decreased over the years and when you don’t take care of your teeth that could cause other health issues.

William Kane, a dentist in Dexter, got his start in dentistry 40 years ago.

“When I first came to Dexter, I was dentist number eight, now we only have three dentists in Dexter, and I am the oldest,” Kane said.

Kane said the lack of dentists in the area is just one reason why access to dental care may be hard to come by.

“We are not getting a fair number of new dentists coming to the area,” he said.

Kane said it’s harder for those living in rural communities.

He said the smaller towns in the Heartland may have one dentist or some don’t have any at all, causing those people to forgo the dentist until it’s urgently needed.

“A lot of times they don’t think about us until they are in pain and then they want to be seen immediately,” he said.

Kane also said for some it’s not that people don’t want their teeth checked; other factors play a role.

“Transportation, finances, Medicare,” he said.

But skipping the dentist all together could be a disservice to your health.

“It impacts your health overall. Tooth cavities and infections can lead to septic, affect your cardiac condition and pneumonia,” Tonya Meyer said.

Over at Southeast Hospital, Tonya Meyer and Regina Moore are working to educate patients about oral care.

“No matter what you came in for, total hip, total knee, something totally unrelated we were gifting patients with pneumonia simply by ignoring oral care,” Moore said.

Moore, a clinical quality analyst, said if you aren’t feeling good and not taking care of your teeth it could lead to pneumonia.

“The bacteria on your teeth multiplies and then you aspirate that into your lungs, and you could end up with pneumonia and it wasn’t even why you came here,” Moore said.

Moore said educating these patients now can help stop problems in the future.

“Just by taking care of your mouth you could prevent other serious diseases,” she said.

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