Many dentists are generous with their time and talents, volunteering for Missions of Mercy, Give Kids A Smile and other state or local oral health care access programs. But how can dentists go beyond these special events and take leadership in improving their communities’ oral health?
When it comes to oral health community integration, the efforts of one dentist can go a long way in improving access to care, enhancing oral health literacy and building coalitions beneficial to the profession.
It’s also good business. Whether you work to engage physicians in oral health, advocate for community water fluoridation or work with schools to provide mouthguards for athletic teams, you are providing a service that is beneficial to the community and reflects well on you, your business and the profession.
“Sounds good,” you say, “but where do I start?”
The ADA has designed a toolkit just for that purpose. The toolkit, comprised of dozens of helpful links (found below), is intended to encourage dentists to take a proactive role in making sure that oral health is an integral part of improving the overall health of their communities.
Community Leader Toolkit
Current toolkit items, which address many of the opportunities and challenges that local dentists encounter when moving beyond their dental practices into their communities, include:
- The ADA “Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making A Difference” campaign information.
- Educating pregnant women and other primary care providers about the importance of oral health during pregnancy.
- The Incurred Medical Expense reimbursement mechanism as a means of supporting increased oral health services within long-term care facilities for individuals covered by Medicaid. A proposed modular geriatric oral health continuing education course is being developed by the National Eldercare Advisory Committee.
- The ADA’s new consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, offers dental health information for the whole family, which will be especially helpful as the public’s awareness of the importance of oral health rises in response to the Ad Council Campaign, to brush two minutes, twice a day.
- Advocating for school-based sealant programs as a principal primary prevention strategy along with community water fluoridation.
- Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn: A School Health Policy Guide developed by the National Association of State Boards of Education could assist those dentists serving on school health advisory committees.
- Working with Head Start and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) to provide oral health at an early age.
- Collaborating with pediatricians to provide screening, caries risk assessment, fluoride varnish (as appropriate) and referral to a dentist by one year of age.
Items supporting growth of the local oral health safety net include:
Leadership within communities necessarily leads to consideration of where one fits within the larger public health infrastructure.