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New program helps meet dental care needs for individuals in recovery

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A new outreach program at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine provides dental care and oral health education to individuals in recovery. Recovery with a Smile works with local recovery centers to provide much-needed oral health services. This project builds on the previous work of the school’s community oral health team focused on substance use disorder, stigma and access to care. 

Individuals with a substance use disorder have higher rates of dental disease and lower access to dental care. Substance use directly impacts the oral cavity, and oral health can influence factors central to recovery and overall quality of life. Likewise, dental pain and infection can heighten factors contributing to addiction and increase the use of emergency rooms for oral health problems.

The Departments of Family and Community Health and Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery are piloting Recovery with a Smile in partnership with long-term, residential recovery programs in Huntington thanks to grants from the Pallottine Foundation of Huntington and State Opioid Response with a matching grant from the Highmark West Virginia Foundation.

“This project aligns perfectly with the overall mission of the School of Medicine and provides our residents with real-world experience treating members of our community who are working to recover from a substance use disorder,” said Project Director Raj K. Khanna, D.M.D., M.D., professor and chair of dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery at the School of Medicine and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Marshall Health. “I am thrilled that our team gets to be a part of recovery efforts in our community.”

The two-year pilot program integrates comprehensive oral health into an existing substance use disorder treatment program to address oral cavity damage. The team, composed of public health dental hygienists, dentists and dental residents, provides a combination of onsite direct dental services, treatment plans and oral health education, and helps patients establish with a community dentist for ongoing comprehensive dental services.

"Self-esteem, confidence, employability and proper nutrition are all an important part of the recovery process, and good oral health plays heavily into all of those factors," said Bobbi Jo Muto, R.D.H., M.P.H., oral health program coordinator for the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. "The confidence that a healthy smile can bring is another catalyst for long-term recovery."

The community oral health team has been providing projects, support, technical assistance and programing aimed at improving oral health, overall health and well-being for 13 years. For news and information about the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, follow us on Twitter @MUSOMWV, like us on Facebook or visit jcesom.marshall.edu. 

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Photo: Dental team members working with Recovery with a Smile are, from left to right, Bobbi Muto, Amy Leedy, Wendy Mosteller, Janna Thornsbury, Barb Thaxton and Dr. Paul Spradlin. 


Media Contact: Sheanna M. Spence, Director of External Affairs, School of Medicine, 304-691-1639


Date Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2022