BY ALEX LANG The Dominion Post

FOR INFORMATION on the WVU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, visit

A smile can be a good first impression, but it can also detail one’s overall health.

“Oral health and general health are integral,” said Gina Sharps, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Dental Practice & Rural Health.

Sharps gave a keynote speech during the WVU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health Community Advisory Network’s quarterly meeting Wednesday.

WVU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health is a grassroots organization that tries to reach women to teach them healthy lifestyles, which they can then share with their families, said Betty Critch, executive director.

Sharps said bacteria can spread from the mouth into other areas in the body, causing health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

The Pew Children’s Dental Campaign had given West Virginia an “F” for children’s dental care. But that grade rose to a “C” in the most recent rankings.

People in West Virginia also rank oral health at the bottom of the list for health care priorities, according to one survey, Sharps said. The state is among the worst in the nation in some dental problems. For example by the age of 8, 66 percent of children in West Virginia have tooth decay.

But WVU has programs to help bring dental care and dental education to local residents. Sharps said the university runs the Children with Healthy Oral Cavities Morgantown Program (CHOMP), which provides dental care for students on Medicaid and other governmental programs.