What is Oral Health and Why Is It Important?
Dental disease is the most common chronic childhood disease; more frequent than hay fever and the common cold. In Humboldt County, one in four incoming kindergarteners have untreated tooth decay. Poor oral health can affect one’s ability to speak, chew, smile and concentrate. It can also lead to pain and infection. Children with dental pain may have difficulty in school and are often absent causing schools to lose attendance funding, according to the American Journal for Public Health. Access to treatment can be costly and difficult to find.
According to the California Department of Public Health, oral health is an essential part of overall health throughout life. Oral health refers to more than just healthy teeth. Oral health refers to the health of the entire mouth. Good oral health means being free of:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Chronic oral pain
- Oral cancer
- Other conditions that affect the mouth and throat.
Access to Care
Private practice dentists take private insurance and may accept cash payment. Contact dental offices directly to see if they are accepting new patients. There may be a long wait time for an initial appointment.
The Medi-Cal Dental Program provides Medi-Cal recipients access to dental care. All local clinics that accept Medi-Cal Dental prioritize children, especially those in pain. Many of the local clinics listed below are not accepting new adult patients, or have months long wait times for appointment. Be sure to ask for a Well Child Dental visit if you are making an appointment for a child that is 3 years old or younger.
Burre Open Door Clinic 707-442-7078
959 Myrtle Ave., Eureka, CA 955011
Fortuna Open Door Dental Clinic 707-725-4477 ext. 4
3750 Rohnerville Road, Fortuna, CA 95540
*K’ima:w Dental Clinic 530-625-4261
1201 Airport Road, Hoopa, CA 95546
Redwoods Rural Health Center 707-923-4313
101 West Coast Rd #B, Redway, CA 95560
*United Indian Health Services 707-825-5000 ext. 2
1600 Weeot Way, Arcata, CA 95521
*Must be tribally enrolled
How to prevent tooth decay
- Brush twice a day
- Floss daily
- Visit the dentist twice a year
- Limit sugary foods and beverages.
What is Public Health’s Role in Oral Health?
Public Health has a long history of working with local stakeholders. The California Center for Rural Policy, Redwood Community Action Agency’s Teaching Oral Optimism Throughout Humboldt County or TOOTH program, the local Dental Advisory Group and the Oral Health Leadership Team, along with other key partners, have identified disparities and gaps in oral health service and are working together to address the needs of our community.
Thanks to a grant funded by the Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 (Proposition 56), DHHS oral health staff are working in geographic regions with the highest rates of untreated tooth decay based on Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment data. The program focuses on providing prevention education and resources to families of children between the ages of 0 and 5 year olds. Services are also provided at elementary schools. Some services include dental screenings, cleanings, fluoride varnish and sealants for students. The program also provides support for children to receive restorative services, such as fillings, so all have healthy smiles.
Smile Humboldt Family, the Local Dental Pilot Program which is part of a statewide Dental Transformation Initiative, is a communitywide outreach program targeting dental hygiene and preventive care for children from 0 to 12 years old. It is aimed at improving dental health for children on Medi-Cal by focusing on preventative care.
- Engages partners and advocates in promoting oral health literacy
- Encourages community water fluoridation
- Provide resources about tobacco cessation, and the Rethink Your Drink, and Brush, Book, Bed campaigns
- Brings dental professionals to schools to provide assessments and preventive services to children with dental needs.
Let’s Keep Humboldt Smiling!