Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Recognizing “Excellent” Dental Programs

By Dr. Mark Doherty, Executive Director, DentaQuest Institute

The DentaQuest Institute had the great honor of hosting the John Rossetti Memorial dinner at the 2011 National Primary Oral Health Conference. John was a personal friend and a great advisor to the DentaQuest Institute and its Safety Net Solutions program. He was one of the program’s first Expert Advisors – our elite faculty of experienced public health dentists who are mentoring safety net dental programs across the United States. It was a great privilege to host the memorial dinner and to endow our annual Centers of Excellence Awards with John’s name.

The John Rossetti Centers for Excellence awards recognize elite safety net dental programs of 2011– programs that displayed tremendous leadership and excellence in oral health practice management, greatly improving access to care and the oral health status of their patients. The recipients of this award provided the leadership and initiative necessary to make positive change “stick” within their dental programs.

The five 2011 Centers of Excellence partnered with Safety Net Solutions technical assistance and practice management consulting over the course of the past year. They were challenged to institute difficult changes with the goals of increasing access, promoting financial sustainability and improving oral health outcomes.

The five programs selected this year truly deserve the “Excellent” title – they have outstanding evaluation data to show that the changes they implemented have lead to measurable improvements in many areas of the dental program.

The 2011 Safety Net Solutions Centers of Excellence are:

We commend each of these Centers for Excellence, and thank all of the safety net dental programs for being examples of sustainable dental care in their communities. I think John Rossetti would be proud of all of them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What you don’t know about oral health may hurt you

By Dr. Doyle Williams, Chief Dental Officer

When people hear the phrase, “I’m in good health,” chances are they aren’t thinking about their mouths.

But you should. A regular check up with your dentist is as important as an annual physical. If you are someone who is afraid of the dentist and only make an appointment when you are in pain – think of this: regular preventive care is not painful and it will help prevent painful visits in the future. Good oral health serves much more than cosmetic purposes – it is integral to your overall good health.

Teeth, gums and oral soft tissue are all susceptible to a range of conditions and diseases, including cavities, gingivitis and oral cancer. The irony is that dental disease – cavities and gum disease – are nearly 100 percent preventable if you know what to do. It’s what you don’t know about oral health that may hurt you. That’s oral health literacy.

Culturally-competent oral health literacy is as important as seeing an oral health professional. For some, a painful tooth may be enough reason to schedule a visit with a dentist. But others may wait to see bleeding, swelling, or a fever before thinking about getting care.

That’s the challenge of oral health literacy – making sure people know how to care for their teeth and gums, making sure they know the signs for concern, and making sure they know when and where to go for help.

Here are two examples:

  • The U.S. Surgeon General stressed that parents who are unfamiliar with the importance and care of their child’s primary teeth are unlikely to take appropriate action that may prevent Early Childhood Caries (ECC). That includes food choices, bedtime bottle routines, daily oral hygiene, and failure to see a health professional as the baby teeth are starting to come in.
  • Recently, a 24-year old father from Cincinnati, Ohio died from a tooth infection because he could not afford his medication. When his face and mouth began to swell, the man visited the emergency room at his local hospital where he was given prescriptions for pain medication and antibiotics. Because he could not afford both medications, he only filled the prescription for the pain medication. That helped the pain but the infection continued to spread, eventually to his brain.
Knowledge is power. Everyone has a role in making sure that oral health is an integral part of their overall health.

What do you think needs to be addressed to improve America’s oral health literacy?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oral Health is Now a Leading Health Indicator

By Steve Pollock, President, DentaQuest

At the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced three new categories of Leading Health Indicators for the Healthy People 2020 campaign. The good news is oral health has been identified as a Leading Health Indicator category…finally.

Healthy People 2020 identified 17 oral health goals -- from reducing the rate of dental caries in the primary and permanent teeth of children and adolescents – to increasing the number of children, adolescents and adults who use the oral healthcare system.

HHS named Oral Health a Leading Health Indicator because it is a critical health issue that, if left unaddressed, could result in future public health problems. DentaQuest could not agree more.

Everything we do is focused on our singular mission to improve oral health. Our PreventistrySM philosophy ensures a unique focus on prevention, disease management, quality care, and cost effective benefit program administration, and recognizes and supports the important provider-patient relationship in achieving good oral health. Our DentaQuest Institute isolates areas where we know there is a better way to prevent and manage oral disease, and works to make new and proven dental therapies routinely available in the dental office. Historically, new evidence-based care learnings take years to become accepted and practiced in the dental office setting, and the Institute is working to change that. Our DentaQuest Foundation is driving a grassroots movement across the nation to improve oral health with its Oral Health 2014 Initiative, awarding 20 state organizations funding and resources to reduce oral health disparities, one of the biggest cost drivers in the American health care system.

We are committed to our mission and intent on setting goals and measuring our success against them. We’re working on that. But with Healthy People 2020’s designation of oral health as a Leading Health Indicator, our ability to affect our mission takes a major step forward. With the endorsement of HHS and the power of Healthy People 2020 focused on oral health improvement, much will be done to prevent oral disease. Our population will be healthier and our state and national health care systems will see costs go down. Without good oral health, it’s impossible to enjoy good overall health.

Oral diseases are almost 100% preventable. With the right focus and resources, oral disease is one chronic health problem that we can target and eliminate – in our lifetime. I am convinced that with a coordinated system of collaboration and persistence, oral diseases can become a thing of the past.