Written by The Business Journal Staff
Project Save A Mouth is a non-profit initiative designed to educate the public on the causes and consequences of poor oral health.
A four-doctor team of oral surgeons with Fresno Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and Dental Implant Center brought the national initiative to the Central Valley because the population is underserved, according to Dr. Ardavan Kheradpir.
“Nine percent of Californians have never visited a dentist, but that number doubles to 18 percent in Fresno,” Kheradpir said. “We want to bring that down because that affects more than just oral health. There are multiple health issues associated with poor oral health and we want to make people in the community aware.”
Kheradpir’s statistics are consistent with a California Health Interview Survey conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. While 18 percent of Fresno residents have never had a dental visit, the study also found that only 70 percent have seen a dentist in the past six months, compared to the California average of 74 percent. The study also notes that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children, five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever among those ages 5 to 17.
“In the Central Valley, oral health issues are rampant,” Kheradpir said. “Over half—56 percent—of adults are missing a tooth. That number is less in affluent areas, but still, with the standard of living in the United States, this is unacceptable. Fifty percent of those over 30 have some gum disease and that is astounding. When the gums are infected, that causes a recession of the gums, which affects the bones, and bacteria in the mouth can feed and get into the rest of the body and have sinister effects. It can spread and when you’re older. That can become debilitating.”
Some of the diseases poor oral health can contribute to include cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetes, high blood sugar, endocarditis and osteoporosis.
Project Save A Mouth seeks to educate the public on these complications of poor oral health and how to take care of the mouth through a joint effort between local dentists and other entities. Fresno City College and the Fresno County Office of Education are two larger entities that have already signed on in support of the initiative.
Kheradpir said he believes the team effort will have greater impact than some of the initiatives already underway in the Valley by individual dental offices.
“It is unique because it’s a team of dentists working together side by side with a third party entity,” Kheradpir said. “There is power in numbers and when there is a third party managing the drives, then it’s a very concentrated, focused, efficient effort to reach the community at large, versus an individual dentist’s office, which may only reach a few patients.”
Kheradpir said the key is educating people early and having kids start healthy habits young.
“We want to make the public aware so they change habits early” Kheradpir said. “The millennial’s are very mindful of the environment today because their generation was educated when they were young about how actions can affect the environment and the awareness in that area continues. Project Save A Mouth is akin to that on a smaller scale. We want to do the same in propagating this message of taking care of oral health. When more people are aware, more intervene.”