Take charge of your health today. Be informed. Be involved. – Oral Health Disparities

by Esther Bush, For New Pittsburgh Courier

This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on oral health disparities. Erricka Hager and Bee Schindler, community engagement coordinators, University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh spoke about this topic.

EB: I am excited that we’re revisiting the topic of oral health, Erricka, and Bee. Oral health disparities are extreme in the United States. Despite major improvements to oral health in the population as a whole, disparities still exist for many racial groups. I am pleased that we are taking the conversation a step further to discuss these gaps. The last time we talked we encouraged our readers to take charge of their health by participating in research studies. We should also make sure that parents understand the importance of starting healthy habits early in childhood.

EH: It is wonderful to talk with you, Ms. Bush, and to revisit a health topic that impacts every generation. It is good to know that progress has been made by increasing access to dental insurance for black children. Differences still remain between black and white children. The Surgeon General has asked that everyone take action to maintain the oral health of all Americans and Mary Marazita, PhD, professor and vice chair in the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine is doing a lot of work around this.

EB: That’s a great point, Erricka! Dr. Marazita states that dental caries also known as cavities are the most common chronic disease in the United States. Dental caries is also very preventable. The Surgeon General wants to change the impression of oral health and disease by removing obstacles. The Surgeon General also wants to strengthen partnerships that enhance the oral health of minority communities.

BS: There are many obstacles individuals face when going to the dentist. The Center for Oral Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh addresses these obstacles and works to remove them. Their current focus is on pregnant African American women. They are working to understand why children in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas have more cavities than most other children. They have joined the West Virginia health department to increase access to dental hygienists. They also provide transportation and referrals to local dentists to help eliminate obstacles for participants.

EB: Wow! Dr. Marazita’s team is doing a great job of focusing on obstacles faced by minority communities accessing dental health services. We must continue to have these conversations about health topics impacting the Black community. Our conversations keep the community engaged and spread awareness.

EH: Yes, Ms. Bush, our conversation is necessary for changing impressions about oral health in the Black community. We are providing our readers with all the tools to positively impact their oral health.

BS: Thank you so much for having this conversation with us, Ms. Bush. It was so wonderful talking with you about oral health. Thank you for inspiring children, youth and adults to take charge of their health. I look forward to next month as we discuss the relationship between physical activity and diabetes.


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