Dental Care Transforms Substance Abusers: The Proof Is in The Smile

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What’s it like to go from living on the streets looking for your next fix to working the front desk at the Mayor’s Office?

Ask Destiny Garcia, one of several recovery patients to benefit from dental treatment in a recent three-year study at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. Researchers found that those receiving dental care stayed in treatment about twice as long as those who didn’t.

“That was one thing that kept me in rehab,” says Destiny. “I was going to get new teeth.”

What’s more, the study showed a whopping 80% increase in patients completing their recovery program.

“That’s an incredible impact on this population,” says Dr. Glen Hanson, who led the study. “If you get 10-15%, you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Completing a treatment program greatly decreases a patient’s chances of relapsing. In the big picture, the dramatic drop in homelessness among the local population says it all.

According to Hanson, about 50% of drug abusers have serious dental problems. “Dental pain for these patients oftentimes is 24/7,” he says. “We restore their function so they can eat normally and improve their social abilities. They feel confident, they can talk, and they’re not hiding their mouth.”

“When you don’t have teeth,” says Destiny, “people judge you, and they don’t want to hire you. Now I don’t stop smiling.”

If this story gives you a new appreciation for dental health, you might consider a dental plan from your association and AMBA, which can mean significant savings on everything from routine exams to costly procedures.

Bottom line? Never underestimate the power of a smile.

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