Increasing Access: Partnering to Bring a Smile

Increasing Access: Partnering to Bring a Smile

Dental care is critical to overall health and is one of the highest health priorities in Oregon. Tooth loss and gum disease are associated with higher risks of diseases such as heart conditions and diabetes. They also have a negative impact on a person’s emotional well-being, often leading to isolation and depression.

In 2019, Providence partnered with Neighborhood Health Center to pilot a new dental health program for underserved and at-risk patients in Clackamas and Washington counties. Called 2nd Bite, the program is improving community health by:

  • Treating infection, preserving teeth and restoring proper chewing function through dentures
  • Controlling chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, through improved digestion and nutrition
  • Decreasing the number of emergency department visits for dental conditions
  • Enriching the lives of those served by improving their ability to engage in meaningful life activities, such as securing employment

Early results show that 2nd Bite is working. During the program’s first year, Providence provided more than 900 dental services to needy patients. In fact, 2nd Bite earned a Superstar Award at the 2019 Portland Safety-Net Celebration, which recognizes the importance of partnering to serve health needs.

There are many success stories. Here are two:

  • Neil works two jobs – delivering papers and fixing cars. His dentures were 18 years old, and they no longer fit properly. He could manage to wear them only by using lots of denture glue. After qualifying for 2nd Bite and getting new dentures, he can’t stop smiling.
  • Walter came to a Neighborhood Health Center clinic with 50-year-old dentures. The upper denture was missing teeth. The lower denture was broken into two pieces, which Walter had to glue together each day. Neither he nor his family had the money to pay for new dentures. When he learned he was eligible for 2nd Bite, he and his family couldn’t stop crying tears of joy.

The partnership between Providence and Neighborhood Health Center is making a positive difference to people in the Portland metro area. Their smiles of relief and gratitude say it all.

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