The Wright Medicine: Focusing on dental health | Community Columns

Anke Neustadt

Dental care seems like such a routine part of people’s lives that I think it too often doesn’t get the attention it deserves for the crucial role it plays in not only protecting beautiful smiles, but also better overall health and quality of life.

It’s something we simply must not ignore, considering how important our teeth are to daily living. And for you parents out there, it is especially critical to establish with your children an early commitment to sound dental hygiene in hopes that it’ll ensure a lifetime’s worth of healthy teeth and gums. During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many families delaying their dental care. I cannot stress enough how vital it is for your kids to make regular trips to the dentist’s office beginning at a very young age.

It’s no big secret that when we practice proper dental hygiene, we’re keeping our mouth, teeth and gums clean and protected from tooth decay — cavities — and more serious forms of disease. That includes periodontal (gum) disease, which is caused by an imbalance in gum bacteria that progressively deteriorates the gums and bone, leading to loose teeth and, quite often, tooth extractions. If untreated, gum disease may also affect other parts of the body, with recent research showing a potential link between oral infections and diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

When it comes to children, cavities are the No. 1 chronic infectious disease in the United States — four times more likely than childhood asthma and three times more common than obesity, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. About 60% of children will be affected by tooth decay by the age of 5. Children with dental problems also are three times more likely to be absent from school because of dental pain than children with no oral health issues, according to AAPD.

As a result, we really need to be proactive about our children’s dental health. Parents should take their kids for their first dental examination within six months of the first tooth coming in or by about 12 months at the latest. About 40% of parents delay their child’s first visit until after age 2 ½, according to AAPD. That delay can be significantly detrimental to the child’s long-term oral health.

Thankfully, right here in Northeast Pennsylvania, there are numerous high-quality dental professionals, including our own highly committed dental health team at The Wright Center for Community Health, who operate out of our Scranton and Jermyn practices and provide safety-net dental services to the community as part of our patient-centered medical home model.

We offer comprehensive dental services to families, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, thanks to our sliding-fee discount program that is available to eligible patients based on family size and income. Our services include cleanings, exams, X-rays, fillings, extractions, dentures, emergency care and oral cancer screenings.

In addition to myself, our dental staff includes Dr. Caitlin McCarthy and four certified public health dental hygienist practitioners — Marisa Duchnik, Barbara Keller, Bernadette Lukasik and Gay Polt. They are truly outstanding professionals who are completely devoted to providing exceptional dental care to our patients. I am proud to call them my colleagues.

Good dental hygiene really isn’t that much of a commitment, but the returns on that simple investment are profound. So, do it for yourself and your children – and you will all have something to smile about. For more information about The Wright Center’s dental health services, visit

Satya Upadhyayula, D.M.D., specializes in general practice dentistry and oral health at The Wright Center for Community Health. Dr. Upadhyayula is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and completed his oral and maxillofacial surgery internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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