Emily Corpstein, the newest registered dental hygienist for the Atchison Community Health clinic, wants to help people understand the importance of taking care of their teeth.
“My emphasis is on education and getting people to really think about their dental care,” she said. “People don’t always realize how dental health correlates to overall health.”
Studies have shown a link between gum disease such as gingivitis or periodontitis and several other systemic illnesses. These include heart disease, diabetes and strokes. It can also lead to a lower birth rate in child-bearing women.
“People schedule appointments for ‘just a tooth ache’, but it’s never just a toothache,” Corpstein said. “When there is an infection in a person’s mouth, their immune system is compromised. In the elderly, a tooth infection can lead to a higher chance of developing pneumonia.”
Coprstein said emphasis on dental care for the whole body has really grown in the last decade. Dental care programs have been extended into nursing homes and schools, providing hygiene to people who may not be able to make it into traditional dental office.
Corpstein said she gets really discouraged when a patient says, “I want all my teeth pulled. I’m just tired of dealing with them.”
“That is a short- term fix that leads to long-term problems,” Corpstein said, explaining that the jaw bone is a like a muscle. If it doesn’t get stimulation and use, it begins to recede.
“People think one pair of dentures will last a long time. But jaw shrinkage leads to improperly fitted dentures. Whenever you can save a tooth, you are better off in the long run.”
This includes fillings and crowns, which also need daily home care and good dental habits.
“Getting a filling is like changing the oil on your car ... you don’t do it once and then forget about it.”
Corpstein really wants to emphasize dental care education for children because a lot of their habits begin early. Parents need to stay from giving their children a lot of juice or putting them to bed with a bottle.
This is just an opportunity for sugar to sit on the teeth and bacteria to grow. And for those folks who sip on soda pop or sugared tea all day, that’s not just bad for your weight.
“Studies have shown a bigger correlation in tooth decay and frequency of sugary drinks than the amount of sugar,” Corpstein said.
Corpstein, a 2017 graduate of North Central Missouri College, is going to acquire her Extended Care Permit III for Dental Hygienists. Kansas is one of the first states to adopt this program which allows hygienist to be out in rural communities where a regular dentist is not always available.
The scope of practice for an ECP III includes placing temporary fillings, smoothing a sharp tooth, removal of decay and services for dentures, including adjustment and checking for sore spots.
“Access to affordable, quality dental services are so important to overall health and having Emily here in the clinic full-time is a huge asset to our patients and community,” said Stevie Durkin, executive director for the Atchison Community Health Clinic. “She joins Christen Lacey who is doing wonderful things in our Open Wide Dental Hygiene program which further improves access to needed dental services for kids in our community.”