Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We’ve Got to Start Talking About Oral Health

By Fay Donohue, CEO, DentaQuest

Here’s how we know we’ve got a problem in this country when it comes to discussing oral health: A major network morning show airs a 10-minute segment with tips on how to brush your pet’s teeth.

When was the last time you can remember a TV segment with tips on how children should brush or floss their teeth – or advice on preventive measures such as sealants? It’s probably been awhile because the most common reaction from the media when the suggestion is made is: “We don’t cover dental.”

Can that really be the case in 2011, a decade after the U.S. Surgeon General declared childhood tooth decay a “silent epidemic”? Tooth decay—which is almost 100 percent preventable—is the most prevalent chronic disease in children 5 to 17 and is growing among very young children, particularly poor young children. And poor oral health is associated with severe problems such as diabetes and heart disease, so why isn’t the media talking more about oral health?

There’s a trivialization of oral health that is baffling. Maybe with all the coverage of celebrities and the fascination with teeth whitening, there is a sense that all the talk about oral health is really just cosmetic. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Congress gets it. The Affordable Care Act ensures that dental care for children is fully integrated into the law as part of the essential benefits package for children. As we move forward with health reform, it is important to remember that oral health is a critical component of the Act and should be funded and supported.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare gets it. The agency established new goals to increase access to dental coverage and work with states to develop an oral health action plan for 2020.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) gets it. IOM just released a report assessing the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services and recommending ways of enhancing and improving oral health in America and called it “The New Oral Health Initiative.”
The Pew Center on the States gets it too. Together with the Kellogg and DentaQuest Foundations, they have put out a state-by-state score card on how states are doing in providing access to oral health for their residents. This report serves another important purpose – it gets people talking about oral health—and that’s important.

What will it take to recognize that talking about oral health is a necessary first step --- for the wellbeing of children because we can help them avoid a lifetime of tooth decay and pain, but also for the health and economic wellbeing of us all? Ignoring it shouldn’t be an option.

Related posts:
· The State of Oral Health in America is Not so Good
· Washington’s Unseen Oral Health Debate
· Some Good News at Massachusetts’ Medicaid Dental Program
· The Silent Epidemic: Early Childhood Caries

Friday, July 22, 2011

Venture Fund for Oral Health

By Ralph Fuccillo, President of the DentaQuest Foundation

I’m excited to announce that we’ve launched the first-ever Venture Fund for Oral Health.

One of the major obstacles to achieving nationwide optimal oral health is the lack of funding to bring effective solutions to scale. Developed by the DentaQuest Foundation, The Venture Fund for Oral Health is a new funding opportunity for oral health programs that have shown positive outcomes and have potential to make a large-scale impact.

The four areas that the Venture’s grants focus on include:

  • Public policy that supports improved oral health

  • Increased public and private funding for oral health initiatives

  • Improvement in the delivery of oral health care and prevention programs

  • Expanded community engagement on oral health issues

To qualify for funding, organizations must demonstrate proven past successes in one of the systems that we seek to impact – policy, funding, care, community – and a well-developed plan for expansion.

By replicating programs that have proven to be successful in reducing oral health disparities, we can improve access to oral health care and reduce oral disease for vulnerable children and their families. Knowing that tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease among children aged five to 17, it goes without saying that the Venture Fund for Oral Health is both critical and hopeful.

So please, spread the word! If you are part of an organization that promotes oral health or know of an organization that is eligible, encourage them to apply for one of these grants.

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Alliance: Common Ground & Shared Solutions

By Ralph Fuccillo
President, DentaQuest Foundation

During the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of an exciting, collaborative initiative that has mobilized the oral health community across the nation. What’s the initiative? The U.S. National Oral Health Alliance. The Alliance is bringing together groups with various interests and perspectives in a never-before-seen way. It is really quite remarkable.

The roots of the Alliance date back to the 2009 American Dental Association’s Access to Dental Care Summit, where more than 140 leaders in dentistry, dental education and the dental industry, as well as medical professionals, health advocates, opinion leaders, program heads, policy makers and others collectively addressed a common vision: ensuring access to care and prevention that supports optimal oral health for America’s most vulnerable children and adults...within the next five years.

With that vision came a commitment to work together to find common ground and work for shared solutions – and the Alliance was born. So far, we’ve made tremendous progress toward extending the common ground that grew from the Summit, but there is still more to be done. As the recent Institute of Medicine report points out, not enough Americans have access to dental care and nearly one-third of the population reports challenges in accessing dental care.

The Alliance continues to work toward a common purpose of improving access and oral health and welcomes all as partners.

Skeptics may say this is not possible, but having experienced the trust building and commitment of colleagues that built this new organization over the past two years, I am convinced we can fulfill the vision that many of you claimed as your own.

Visit The first gathering, a Colloquium, is in November. Get your name on the list by joining the Alliance. Shared leadership, open minds, and the willingness to collaborate will further build on the best ideas to improve oral health for those who are most in need.

Related Posts:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tooth protection: Sealants for better oral health

We in the oral health community often take it for granted that everyone understands the importance of preventive treatments when it comes to good oral health. But the reality is that everyone isn’t aware of simple, cost effective things they can do—like brushing and flossing every day and seeing your dental care provider every year. And sometimes we don’t fully appreciate how difficult it may be for some to get dental services -- and that limits their use of preventive treatments.

Prevention is important for everyone, but especially so for children. If we can keep children free from dental disease, we are giving them a strong start to a healthy life. As I’ve said here before, it is hard to do well in school or in life, when you have constant tooth pain.

Dental sealants are a very good way to prevent tooth decay in children.

For those who may not be familiar with them, dental sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to permanent molars. The sealant is applied as a liquid that is brushed onto the deep grooves of teeth by your oral healthcare professional. Sealants dry into the plastic film that provides a physical barrier to bacteria and sugar and effectively protects the pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of teeth from dental decay.

Sealants are considered a cost-effective intervention to prevent tooth decay. Consider this: the cost of applying one dental sealant is significantly less than the average cost of filling that same tooth. And when you think that a single sealant may prevent that tooth from being re-filled many times over a lifetime, it is just pennies spent for every dollar saved.

In support of sealants as a proven preventive treatment, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 set a goal of increasing the number of children who have received dental sealants on their molar teeth to 50 percent. But, despite numerous studies confirming that sealants are a cost-effective intervention, only a handful of states have reached this goal.

To help reach this national goal, the DentaQuest Institute is working with five community health center dental programs to find effective ways to increase the use of sealants for children aged 6 to 8 and adolescents 12 to 14. Those are the ages when the permanent molars erupt into the mouth. We hope the results of this Dental Sealants Initiative will help other oral health care providers make sure sealants are a standard tool in their offices for preventing cavities in children and adolescents.

We are optimistic the results of this DentaQuest Institute quality improvement initiative will increase the number of children who receive dental sealants. And that means less dental disease.