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Oral health kits to Arkansans in need


The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Office of Oral Health is partnering with the Arkansas Foodbank Network to provide more than 5,000 oral health kits to Arkansans in need. The oral health kits, which include toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss, will be available to the Foodbank’s member organizations beginning this fall.
“Oral health and proper nutrition are closely linked,” said Dr. Rachel Sizemore, ADH Director of the Office of Oral Health. “At the ADH Office of Oral Health, our priority is to help Arkansans take care of the teeth needed to digest healthy foods.”
According to America’s Health Rankings 2022 Annual Report, Arkansas ranks last in the nation for the percentage of adults who reported visiting a dentist or dental clinic within the past year. Arkansas also ranks 49th in the nation for the number of adults and children who are food insecure. Food insecurity is an important risk factor for poor oral health in people of all ages. Individuals who are food insecure are more likely to have unmet dental care needs, which can lead to infections, eating difficulties and tooth decay.
“At the Arkansas Foodbank, we know the correlation between dental health and food insecurity is influenced by various factors, including socioeconomic status, cultural factors, and individual behaviors,” said Chief Programs Officer, Melissa Cargile. “Through this partnership, we are able to promote oral hygiene habits for thousands of Arkansans facing hunger.”

In addition to tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease, poor oral health has been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and pre-term or low-birth weight babies. Good oral health is important for all people. Brushing teeth twice a day, flossing, limiting sugary foods and drinks, and regular visits to a dentist can prevent or reduce many oral health problems.
“By optimizing oral health, Arkansans impact not only their teeth but also the health of their minds and bodies,” Dr. Sizemore added. “The psychological and social impact of a healthy smile are hard to overstate; and the medical benefits of a healthy mouth are supported by a growing body of scientific evidence. Building healthy habits from an early age can yield lifelong results.”
The ADH Office of Oral Health’s mission is to promote life-long, optimum oral health for all Arkansans through primary prevention, education, accessible and culturally competent community-based oral health care, and informed policy development.