Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center to Host Free Workshop for Low-Income Seniors

Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center to Host Free Workshop for Low-Income Seniors
June, 2018 Client News

San Diego, Calif. – June 14, 2018 – According to the American Dental Association Policy Institute, approximately 67 percent of low-income seniors did not visit a dentist in the last year. The reasons for not seeing a dentist vary, and range from high cost, lack of transportation, fear, not feeling pain or even believing that it is no longer necessary to visit the dentist as we age. One thing is for certain, if you do not address oral health, poor prevention or lack of treatment can lead to serious health issues not only in your mouth but elsewhere in the body. But the good news is, it is never too late to start taking care of oneself with an oral hygiene routine and some basic prevention.

To address this need, the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, a nonprofit community dental center dedicated to serving low-income seniors 60 and older in San Diego County, will host “Tooth Wisdom: Get Smart About Your Mouth,” a free dental health workshop developed by Oral Health America. Seniors are invited to attend on Tuesday, June 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The workshop will be held at Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, located at 1525 4th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101, and is free and open to the public. Space is limited so please RSVP by email to

The “Tooth Wisdom” workshop is presented at the Senior Dental Center by a registered dental hygienist. The Senior Dental Center’s mission is to provide affordable, high-quality oral healthcare with comprehensive education, clinical, and wellness services for seniors in need, enabling them to live healthy and productive lives. The workshop information is presented in partnership with Oral Health America, a national non-profit dedicated to increasing access and oral health literacy.

Research shows links between periodontal infections and chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease, which can be especially devastating to older adults. Workshop participants learn about gum disease, how cavities form, as well as the proper tips for maintaining a healthy mouth including taking care of their teeth and dentures. Additionally, participants also learn about oral cancer risks. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, about 51,540 people in the United States will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer, and just over 10,000 people will die of these cancers. Each patient of the Senior Dental Center is screened for oral cancer because early detection can save lives, especially when it is combined with a regular dental check-up.

“The information presented in our workshops is designed to bust the myths of dental care. Some seniors believe that they don’t need to take care of their teeth and gums, which is furthest from the truth,” says Dr. Karen Becerra, CEO and dental director of the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center. “What happens in your mouth does not stay in your mouth, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body.”

The June 19, 2018 Tooth Wisdom workshop is the first in the Senior Dental Center’s monthly series of workshops that are open to the public. Additional workshops are scheduled for July 17, 2018 and August 21, 2018.

The Senior Dental Center links high-quality and affordable oral healthcare with a suite of nutrition, case management and wellness services offered at Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, creating a one-of-a-kind, integrated community-based system of care for older adults, who primarily live on less than $850 a month and often choose between paying for basic necessities like rent, food or healthcare. Established in 2016, the Senior Dental Center fills an important need for seniors. The majority of patients who are being seen at the Senior Dental Center are eligible for Denti-Cal, the dental program within California’s Medicaid (Medi-Cal) program. However, because not all services are covered by Denti-Cal, other services are provided based on a sliding fee scale.

Dr. Becerra and her team of staff hygienists and volunteer dental specialists have treated 760 patients over the course of 6,762 visits since the opening of the dental center. Services range from cleanings to extractions to root canals. With each appointment, she and her team also take time to educate their patients in oral healthcare, so maintenance can continue at home and overall general health can improve.

“I am very passionate about providing dental care services to diverse populations, and there is a great need to provide high-quality services to low-income seniors in San Diego,” continued Dr. Becerra. “We’ve made a positive impact in helping hundreds of vulnerable seniors restore their smiles and their health, but we can’t do it alone. We rely on financial donations to continue the good fight. We encourage the public to donate to the Senior Dental Center at”

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. Without access, more and more older Americans will seek treatment in emergency rooms rather than in dental offices or clinics. If improvements in access, affordability, education and awareness do not occur, oral disease and related health issues will become increasingly prevalent and a costly public health issue for our aging population. This is why it is so important that innovative care models bring oral healthcare to the right place. At the Senior Dental Center seniors are given the knowledge and tools to manage their own oral health in collaboration with their dental team.

To learn more about the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit

About The Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center
The nonprofit Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center, through its innovative care model, offers high-quality, affordable oral healthcare with comprehensive education, health and wellness services at Serving Seniors’ Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego to serve low-income seniors. The Senior Dental Center was established by the nonprofit Gary and Mary West Foundation whose founders are philanthropists Gary and Mary West. For more information and to donate, visit