July 7, 2023

Oral Health Awareness

CommunityHealth observes Oral Health Awareness throughout July.

Dental care is not only expensive but often not covered by insurance. And communities who need the most dental education and care tend to have the least access to such.

CommunityHealth is proud to offer free cleanings, fillings, and extractions in our dental clinic, collaborating with other specialists to provide comprehensive treatment on the relationship between oral and systemic health.

It is important to take care of your mouth like you take care of your body.

Most of our patients have not seen a dentist before and maintain complications from health conditions like diabetes.

Recognizing that a visit to the dentist can be a very intrusive and personal experience, the dental clinic helps patients design a template for what dental care is and a protocol for follow-ups with their dental providers.

At appointments with our dental clinic, patients will learn that many diseases can happen in the mouth such as…

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Oral cancer
  • Canker/cold sores
  • Chewing and talking incapacities

Patients will also learn that possible symptoms of disease include…

  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad taste in mouth
  • Tooth/gum sensitivity or pain
  • Bad breath

Thanks to our dental providers who practice compassion based in cultural competency, patients leave clinic doors knowing exactly what they need to do at home to be an active participant in their own oral health.

For example, the dental clinic hosted a give-away to celebrate Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April and awarded one of our patients a free water flosser, donated by BURST Oral Care

The providers in the dental clinic make sure patients are provided with the resources, tools, and education necessary to keep smiling beyond clinic doors…

Meet Dr. Maggie!

In practice for six years, Dr. Margaret Liskutin, DMD, MS, MBA, (she/her) has served as the Oral Health Manager at CommunityHealth since April of 2022.

She trained at our community partner Midwestern University, where she continues to teach part-time as an adjunct professor after her residency associated with University of Detroit Mercy.

Dr. Maggie addresses Social Determinants of Health in her practice, highlighting that patients at CommunityHealth experience higher rates of periodontal disease than average populations.

 “A lot of the advice we give patients ties back to systemic health and relates to general habits that can benefit the whole body as well.”

She takes the time to learn why the disease tends to be more advanced beyond the inaccess to health care that has left it untreated and unchecked. For example, she learned that our patient population tends to culturally consume high amounts of acidic foods like lemons and limes, increasing risk for cavities and gum degeneration.

“Oral health is integral to overall health. Treating the mouth is treating the whole body.”

Periodontal disease is degenerative and does not have cure, requiring structured maintenance and management. A cavity may progress slowly but an ensuing infection may advance quickly, sometimes resulting in pricy emergency room visits or costly intensive care unit stays.

Dr. Maggie notes that patients usually do not schedule until they are already in pain, which is why she expands upon typical dental office standards’ of biannual visits and actually follows up with patients every two to three months to “help them get where they need and deserve to be.”

The education on dental care that allows patients to continue preventative care outside of clinic doors is possible thanks to the service of our devoted volunteers from Student-Run-Clinics like the Student National Dental Association and the Hispanic Student Dental Association.

However, it is truly Dr. Maggie’s trusted assistant who helps patients take back ownership of their oral health.

Meet Ivana!

Ivana Mojica (she/her) has served as the Dental Coordinator with CommunityHealth since March of 2017, in service with our clinic for six years.

Although she has been a Dental Assistant since her graduation from Everest College in 2013, she has also worked as a Medical Assistant and Pharmacy Technician with Cook County Hospital since 2009.

Her career in health care “has always been about helping people.”

“You can keep your mouth healthy and you don’t have to live in pain.”

Ivana explains that there is a misconception that poor oral health is genetic within the communities that CommunityHealth serves. In the countries that our patients are from, dental care tends to lack prevention, often extracting teeth rather than treating the disease due to costs.

Before care at CommunityHealth where services are free, patients would often “have to choose between paying rent and buying groceries or dental treatment.” But beyond the financial barriers to care, Ivana recognizes that “it always comes back to education.”

She is proud to educate her patients on dental care that builds not only healthy habits but also self-esteem. She encourages patients to limit, if not eliminate, sugar, acidic drink/diet, alcohol, and tobacco intake and, just as importantly, to “brush, floss, and follow up!”

“We try to help patients keep their teeth for as long as they can to avoid expensive replacements like partials or dentures.”

Patients are provided with the same top-tier, quality care that is offered at other dental clinics because of the intentional, patient relationships that Dr. Maggie and Ivana build with our communities… and because of new state funding!

The dental clinic got a makeover!

CommunityHealth received its first state funding in history when the state of Illinois provided a grant to the Illinois Association of Free and Charitable Clinics in 2022.

The grant was focused on enhancing patient care, especially in the dental department where Ivana was previously known to caucus and super glue outdated equipment herself.

With new functionable equipment like chairs, vacuums, and compressors, the dental team is excited to be able to see patients regularly.

For example, the clinic upgraded their intraoral camera, providing clearer and faster documentation for oral pathology.

And with the implementation of our new Patient Portal, results can be directly communicated to other providers where patients can also access their test results and message their care team.

Dr. Maggie exclaims that “patients get the same dental care that they would get outside of our office” with our new…

  • Speed adjustable hand pieces
  • Ultrasonic instrument sanitizer
  • Autoclave for infection control
  • And more!

“We see our patients where and how they need to be seen.”

Our dental department is one of many free specialty services offered to uninsured and underinsured populations at no-cost to their families.

The comprehensive care we offer makes us More than a Free Clinic but a true medical home. With your support, we can continue to make sure patients leave our doors smiling.

Thank you for helping us provide Quality Health Care for All!