Thursday, December 17, 2015

Who Knew? Oral Health and Diabetes

By Dr. James E. Thommes, Vice President, Clinical Management, DentaQuest

On the tails of American Diabetes Month and ahead of the New Year, we want to take a moment to raise awareness about the disease that impacts nearly 30 million children and adults across the United States. And, frankly, diabetes is an even bigger epidemic than that statistic reveals - another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

So what’s the connection between diabetes and oral health? 

Many people don’t know that there’s actually a very direct connection between diabetes and oral health. People with diabetes may experience more severe periodontitis, otherwise known as gum disease, because diabetes lowers the body’s ability to resist infection and slows healing.

Additionally, gum disease can make diabetes more difficult to control as blood sugar levels spike throughout the body. People with diabetes can also experience thrush, a mouth infection, among other oral health issues.

The millions of Americans across the country with diabetes already have a lot to manage, but it’s important to also remember dental hygiene, since it’s so directly connected to the disease. Health care providers, advocates and other stakeholders have an important part to play when it comes to raising awareness of diabetes and its connection to oral health, along with helping diabetics manage the disease.

How can we shine the light on the connection between diabetes and oral health?

At DentaQuest, we are helping bridge the gap of understanding, and the gap between dental and overall health. One key way to achieve this is by teaching dentists to uncover possible signs of diabetes during routine dental exams. Dentists can play an important role in spotting undiagnosed diabetes and helping manage the oral health effects of the disease.  

On the other hand, if a physician spots the disease first, he or she can educate the patient about its potential impact on oral health, too, and the important steps the patient should take to maintain oral health.

Another key strategy to spotlight the connection between diabetes and oral health is through consumer education. With a new diagnosis of diabetes occurring every 19 seconds in the U.S., we also must educate consumers and raise awareness beyond American Diabetes Month.

With this in mind, we encourage you to share information about the topic including our free infographic flyer and answers to common questions about the connection between oral health

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Taking it to the Next Level: Moving from 4 to 6

By Ralph Fuccillo, MA, President, DentaQuest Foundation

In late October, we hosted our third annual Oral Health 2020 National Network Gathering where more than 250 partners from all 50 states came together to assess the state of oral health and to further the growth of the network and collective efforts to improve it. During our time in New Orleans, our grantees and partners were focused on challenges we still face, best practices to move the the needle on oral health, and how to better engage their local communities and enact social change.

We also heard from leaders who challenged us to think even more broadly about the national oral health movement, consider new ways to improve oral health and work collaboratively with all stakeholders. Paul Schmitz, CEO of Leading Inside Out, led an exciting discussion about collective impact and encouraging leadership from unconventional sources. Mr. Schmitz presented an interesting reframing of moments in our history where the emphasis on the actions of one leading individual allowed us to overlook the value of the collective actions by multiple people.

Dr. Camara Jones, Senior Fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, and President-Elect of the American Public Health Association, shared thoughts and learning on racism and the social determinants of health as critical components of attaining oral health equity.   Her suggestions to promote population health and prevention in the context of health equity were affirmed by the Foundation’s approach to changing systems by including all voices in the conversation. 

Many of our grantees were able to discuss their own challenges and progress with Paul and Dr. Jones, and their keynotes provided stimulating dialogue for the remainder of the event.

From exciting dialogue to crucial problem-solving, there were many important moments at the convening. But, I wanted to highlight one of my favorites. Among our partners, we debuted the updated Oral Health 2020 goals, which now include six goals aimed at eliminating oral health disparities and improving oral health across the lifespan

We raised the stakes by:

  • Upping the target for our first goal: 85% of children will reach age five without a cavity
  • And adding two new goals:
1.       Oral health will be integrated into at least 50% of emerging person-centered care models.
2.       The public perception of oral health will be improved by increasingly including it in health dialogue and public policy.

Across the lifespan and across the nation, we envision a world where oral health is valued as essential to overall health. The Oral Health for All 2020 Network has crafted a strategic roadmap that is comprehensive of all areas that impact oral health. These goals will continue to drive far-reaching impact, engage communities and shape improvements at all levels of health policy, care and access, along with financing methodologies.

The growth to six achievable goals can only happen through a network of leaders who are committed to and focused on the promise of collective impact principles and culture. We are grateful for so many dedicated partners!  

You can learn more about the work of Oral Health 2020, and our grantees and partners by visiting our website, or following us on Twitter, @OralHealth2020.