San Diego, Calif. – June 26, 2019 – The Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center in Downtown San Diego was recognized for their innovative dental care for seniors receiving the 2019 Live Well San Diego Oral Health Champion Award. The award honors the exceptional achievements, outstanding community efforts, and contributions that have advanced oral health over the last five years in San Diego County.
The Senior Dental Center is a first of its kind nonprofit community dental clinic co-located with Serving Senior’s Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego. It is designed specifically to serve vulnerable seniors, and patients are between the ages of 60 and 100 years-old. “Poor oral health is an epidemic and public health crisis for seniors across California. The problem is more severe among impoverished seniors who have lacked access to care,” says Dr. Karen Becerra, CEO and dental director of the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center. “To receive recognition for our work in an area with such a growing demand validates how important our services are to the community we serve.”
Public Can Support the Senior Dental Center through GIVE65
The Gary & Mary West Senior Dental Center will participate in the fourth annual GIVE65 Event, a program of the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation. This is a 65-hour, crowd-funding event for senior-focused nonprofits to help raise money for programs and services that create hope for seniors from July 9-11, 2019.
Since opening in 2016, the Senior Dental Center has treated more than 1,000 patients for over 10,000 visits. The majority of patients are eligible for California’s Medi-Cal Dental Program. However, because not all services are covered by the program, other services are provided based on a sliding fee scale. “We are raising funds to support seniors through their journey to better oral health,” says Dr. Becerra. “The impact of our services is evident not only on a seniors’ functional ability to eat, speak, and smile but also in their renewed self-confidence and improved quality of life.” Dr. Becerra and her team seeks to raise $2,500 during the 65-hour fundraiser for an opportunity to receive a matching grant of up to $2,500. To learn more and to donate, visit www.give65.org/SDC.
Why Senior Dental Centers Are Needed
While dental care seems to be so simple and routine for many, it is important not to lose sight that as people age, access to dental care tends to decrease. According to the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute, approximately 67 percent of low-income seniors did not visit a dentist in the last year. The top three barriers to dental care are high cost, transportation and lack of providers accepting the Medi-Cal Dental Program. In fact, 41 percent of American seniors choose between rent and nutrition each day, so dental care is rarely prioritized. Some seniors even believe that it is no longer necessary to visit the dentist as they get older.
Dr. Becerra and the team at the Senior Dental Center are avid advocates for improved access to care, emphasizing the link between periodontal infections and chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease, which can be especially devastating to older adults. “If we can treat the root causes of the dental pain and infection, we can hopefully ward off other types of diseases that would affect other parts of the body,” says Dr. Becerra. “Fundraising efforts like Give65 inspire us to reach new audiences and raise the funds to help seniors have their dignity restored, giving them back their voices and ability to smile.”