June 2014 — Henry Schein Inc’s global product donation program and Legacy Community Health bring healthy smiles to Houston’s Fifth Ward

Accessing top-quality, affordable dental care can be a challenge, and many Americans forgo visits to the dentist in favor of addressing other health care concerns. “People who struggle to access health care often overlook their teeth,” said Debbie Costello, Legacy’s Dental Practice manager. “Our patients are busy working, caring for families, and making sure everyone around them is happy and healthy, so a toothache or regular cleaning is put on the back burner.”

At Legacy Community Health Services, caring for a patient’s dental health is just as critical as addressing general health needs. For the Lyons Campus in Houston’s historic Fifth Ward, where nearly half of residents live below the federal poverty level and go without health care essentials, addressing the dental needs of the community is a top priority for the agency.

Establishing a comprehensive, full-service dental practice would have proved an imposing prospect if not for a two-year grant provided by Henry Schein Cares, the charitable arm of Henry Schein Incorporated. Thanks to their Global Product Donation Program, Legacy, thus far, has been awarded $73,000 worth of Schein dental equipment and products needed to operate a robust dental practice. “We have received equipment and supplies beyond our expectations,” said Costello. “Without Henry Schein Cares, the dental practice at Lyons would still be in its infancy. Every dollar we haven’t had to spend on supplies such as gloves or X-ray shields has been reinvested in the patient experience.”

Since the dental clinic at Lyons began operations in January 2014, over 1,100 people have been treated and educated about the importance of regular dental screenings. For one particular patient, the practice has been a saving grace. “I was in serious need of general dental care and dentures,” said Shirley, a client at Lyons. “I was struggling to find care. When I found Dr. Conley, I was so pleased with his service and the quality and cleanliness of the clinic.”

When we separate oral care from our overall physical health and well-being, serious problems can arise later in life. For families facing limited access to general health care, dental care may be nonexistent. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 15 percent of the United States population lives in dental Health Professional Shortage Areas and nearly half the states do not meet federal targets for fluoridation of drinking water, a highly effective measure to prevent tooth decay.

Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), failure to adhere to preventative dental care may result in extreme chronic pain and infections, eating and sleep disruption, and facial disfigurement. WHO also reports that absence from school due to pain associated with tooth decay accounted for 117, 000 hours lost per 100,000 children in the United States.

Everyone loves to smile and science has proven that frequent smiling improves a person’s outlook on life and mood. When proper, preventative dental care is compromised or access to dental needs such as dentures is unavailable, our physical and emotional well-being can deteriorate. Thanks to the partnership between Henry Schein, Legacy Community Health Services, patients will continue to receive the best dental care possible, ensuring a constant healthy smile.