Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Oral Health 2014 Initiative

By Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation

On June 29, the DentaQuest Foundation launched the Oral Health 2014 initiative and opened the RFP. This is the biggest investment to date by the DentaQuest Foundation-- a multi-year commitment to strengthen and accelerate state, regional, and community action on behalf of better oral health. You can view the RFP on our website:

Our mission is to support and promote optimal oral health. To do that, we are directing our leadership and investments to oral health improvement at the national, state and local levels. These investments are strategic, multi-layered, and focused on improving systems– that is the systems that provide and finance care, enhance public policy, and help communities build and navigate available resources for better oral health.

Our Oral Health 2014 initiative supports that strategy. We are encouraging applicants to think outside-of-the-box, to engage a broad range of stakeholders – expected and unexpected, and to lead them in effectively developing a plan for change. We will be watching for the local impact of Oral Health 2014 grantee activities on the essential systems of Policy, Funding, Care, and Community throughout the life of the initiative.

The Oral Health 2014 initiative complements and supports the newly formed U.S. National Oral Health Alliance (Alliance) with engaged local partners across the United States. The DentaQuest Foundation is excited by the opportunities created by this Alliance to encourage cross-sector collaboration and involve many partners in solutions that meet the oral health needs of underserved children and adults in our communities. The Oral Health 2014 Initiative supports this work.

For more information about Oral Health 2014 and eligibility, contact Patrick Finnerty, Senior Advisor, State Oral Health Programs,

For more information on the application process, contact Brenda Lavasta, Programs and Grants Associate, 617.886.1760,

Important Dates and Deadlines

July 7, 2011 Informational conference call Q&A for potential applicants. Email Brenda Lavasta to join.
July 22, 2011 (3 p.m. EST) Deadline for receipt of Letters of Intent (LOI).
August 10, 2011 Applicants notified if invited to submit a full proposal for Planning Phase.
September 9, 2011 (3 p.m. EST) Deadline for proposals for Planning Grant.
October 14, 2011 Applicants notified of award decisions for Planning Grant.
November 9-10, 2011 Grantee Gathering.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Prevention is Key

It was great to see the National Prevention Council’s recently released action plan for health prevention – but I couldn’t help but notice that there was no mention of the importance of oral health—at all.

Prevention is what helps us have good oral health vs. poor oral health. And prevention is all about understanding your risk factors and protective factors. This is true if you are a child or an adult.

In this Oral Health Matters blog, I try to get my readers to think about the risk factors—the things in your life which contribute to poor oral health. There are protective factors too and I’ll talk about them in another blog post. Right now, however, I’ll highlight some common risk areas. I hope you will read through them thoughtfully. If you say ‘yes’ to any of them, it is time to make an appointment with your dentist.

Common risk areas:
  1. Not brushing and flossing your teeth every day – to remove food and bacteria. Making this part of your daily routine is a small change that pays big benefits.

  2. Irregular visits to the dentist. I encourage visiting your dentist at least once a year. Why? Your dentist can detect early signs of trouble and help you get on track.

  3. Have you had a cavity within the last 3 years? Have you lost teeth because of tooth decay or gum disease? Do you have puffy or bleeding gums, receding (shrinking) gums, or areas of the gum line where the root surface of the tooth is exposed? This could mean there may be active gum disease in your mouth. Your dental professional will want to watch you closely for this.

  4. How is your health? Are you pregnant? Have you been diagnosed with diabetes? Do you use/abuse tobacco (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing) or drugs? Do you regularly take prescription/over-the counter-medicines? Do you have braces or partial dentures? Are you undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy? Do you have an eating disorder? Do you have dry mouth? Each of these conditions puts you at higher risk for tooth decay or gum disease. Your oral health professional will help you make adjustments to keep your mouth healthy.

  5. Are you a between-meal-snacker? Do you have a fondness for sugary foods? Do you drink a lot of soda or energy drinks? The sugars and acids in these foods/drinks can encourage tooth decay—especially if you let them linger in your mouth for hours. Again, your oral health professional can help you understand how to lower your risk of oral disease with things as simple as rinsing your mouth with water after eating to keep your teeth healthy.
Think about your answers to these questions and use them to start a conversation with your dentist about managing your areas of risk.

I would like to see Americans get smarter about the role of oral health in their overall health. That’s why I write this blog. When consumers have the knowledge to prevent problems and know when to seek care, they will likely be healthier. That’s why it is upsetting to me that oral health was missing from the National Prevention Council’s action plan.

I’d like to hear what you have to say on the importance of prevention. What does prevention mean to you?

Related Posts:

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Oral care in the United States is undergoing many significant changes. One of these is the exciting growth in the number of Hispanic dental practitioners and patients.

I just returned from the Hispanic Dental Association’s Annual (HDA) Roundtable in Plano, TX where I had the privilege of representing DentaQuest. HDA is a rapidly growing organization and the growth is expected to continue well into the 21st century. That’s a good thing because some experts are projecting a U.S. population that will soon be 40% Hispanic. Being able to talk to patients in a way that respects their culture and background is so important in providing the right care, at the right time, so we make a real impact.

The Hispanic Dental Association is playing a major role in building leadership for Hispanic oral health professionals during this time of change and it, like DentaQuest, is focused on prevention, treatment and education. DentaQuest and the DentaQuest Foundation are proud to support their work in improving oral health in the Hispanic population.

It was good to hear about the plans, concerns, needs and passion for dentistry among the member dentists. Several chapter presidents are DentaQuest providers. For me, this was an opportunity to explain the many facets of the DentaQuest enterprise’s commitment to improving oral health – our benefit programs, philanthropy, and clinical care improvement projects. I talked about the work we are doing to support dentists and their patients, to make participating in our networks easier, and to make sure oral health providers can deliver the best care outcomes. The dentists at the Roundtable were very interested in DentaQuest’s dental home project, our broken appointment project, and the many ways our website makes their work easier.

The dentists I met are enthusiastic champions for good oral health. They are hopeful that we will continue to support their meetings with our presence and are anxious to work with the DentaQuest Institute to improve cultural competency at the practice level. I believe that we have a very effective partnership developing. But for any effort like this to truly be successful we will need the partnership to extend to patients as well. Patients can and should play an important role. I’d like to hear from you on your thoughts.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sip Safely

Spring and summer are a time of sports and hot, humid weather which leads to very thirsty kids. That often translates into an increase in the consumption of sugary and acidic sports drinks. These seemingly harmless liquids can actually wreak havoc on children’s teeth.

The combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives in sports drinks combine to erode the tooth’s surface, weakening the enamel that protects teeth from bacteria. The enamel erosion ultimately makes teeth more susceptible to bacteria and leads to hypersensitivity, staining, and tooth decay.

Frequent consumption of sports drinks lowers the pH in the mouth promoting the demineralization of tooth enamel. (The lower the pH, the more acidic the item.) Demineralization is caused primarily by stable acids found in acidic foods and drinks or which form as by product from bacteria feeding on starches and sugars in the mouth, especially refined sugars.

Demineralization begins at a pH level of 5.5 although under certain conditions, may even start at a higher pH. Popular sports drinks can have a pH of 2.4 and contain 5.5 tsp of sugar in a 12 oz can. So, not only does the drink have a pH that promotes demineralization, it also contains 5.5 tsp of sugar, which can independently contribute to demineralization and tooth decay.

To put the sports drink pH of 2.4 in perspective, compare it to battery acid, which has a pH of 0 and water, which has a pH of 5-7 (neutral). Shocking that a sports drink is closer on the pH scale to battery acid, than water.

Given all this, water is always the best option for everyone but the highest performing athletes who need to replenish minerals from intensive workouts.

If these facts haven’t convinced you to avoid the casual consumption of sports drinks, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Don’t sip the drink throughout the day. - Drinking them for short periods of time means less time for the sugars and acids to erode enamel. Rinse your mouth with water when you’re done to clear away remaining acids and sugars.

Don’t swish the drink around your mouth. - That only increases the risk of erosion. Instead, use a straw so teeth aren’t immersed in or in direct contact with the sugars and acids in the beverage.

Resist the urge to brush your teeth immediately after finishing a sports drink. - Tooth enamel softens after consumption of acidic drinks, making teeth susceptible to more wear from the abrasives in toothpaste. Wait 45 minutes to an hour before brushing to give your saliva time to re-mineralize the tooth structure and neutralize the damage.

Seek regular dental care. - Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It’s also preventable with proper care. Your dentist can identify early signs of erosion, pinpoint the causes, and advise you on how to prevent further damage and more serious problems from occurring.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

State of Oral Health in America is Not So Good

In April, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report on the state of oral health in America, concluding a two year evaluation of the current oral health care system. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requested and funded this report to inform its work in addressing oral health challenges across America. HHS asked the IOM to assess the current oral health system and make strategic recommendations for its future programming. HHS is the federal agency which directs many of the government’s dental delivery, research, training and other programs.

Here are highlights:

  • Tooth decay continues to be a common chronic disease in the United States

  • The prevalence of oral diseases pose a significant burden on the health and well-being of the American people

  • Evidence shows that decay and other oral health complications may be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes

  • Tooth decay is a highly preventable disease

  • The general public and many healthcare professionals remain unaware of oral disease risk factors and preventive approaches and they do not fully appreciate how oral health affects overall health and well-being.

The IOM recommended that HHS design an oral health initiative that addresses areas in greatest need of attention, using approaches that have the most potential for creating improvement s, and to support this effort with strong leadership, sustained interest, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders.

“The Committee on an Oral Health Initiative reaffirms that oral health is an integral part of overall health and points to many opportunities to improve the nation’s oral health,” IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., PhD., said in the foreword to the report. “We issue this report in the hope that it will prove useful to responsible government agencies, informative to the health professions, and public, and helpful in attaining higher levels of dental health.”

The IOM report and brief are posted online at