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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Thanks to grant, many area seniors will have reason to smile

The Spokane Regional Health District has received a nearly $40,000 grant to improve the dental health of area seniors.

The grant, from the American Dental Association Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, will help support the “Seniors Be WISE!” education program.

The public information campaign will work to dispel dental hygiene myths, and will focus on prevention and providing adequate care for all older adults, says Kay Cobb, a public health educator with the Spokane Regional Health District.

“All people assume when they get older they’re going to lose their teeth,” Cobb says. “Prevention is the first step to a healthy mouth.”

Poor oral health has been linked to a variety of diseases, she says, including diabetes and heart disease.

Plus, seniors are at increased risk of dental problems because some take medications that dry out the mouth, allowing plaque to build up. And then some try to solve the problem of dry mouth by sucking on candy.

“Candy equals sugar equals acid attack on your teeth,” she says. “That leads to cavities and gum disease.”

The grant money will allow the health district to launch a TV, radio and print education campaign this month, Cobb says.

The program will also train seniors to teach their peers about good dental health.

The money will pay for fluoride varnish which will be applied to older patients at the Eastern Washington University Dental Hygiene Clinic.

The program also aims to help older residents find affordable dental care.

“It is sad when you get to be a senior and you don’t have work anymore and you don’t have the dental insurance,” Cobb says. “That’s when the problems start.”

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