I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well during these unprecedented times.
Since last month, NCOHC has been hard at work continuing our efforts to improve oral health in North Carolina while also aiding in the COVID-19 response. In this newsletter, you will find an overview of the resources we have curated to assist in patient care, including our statewide emergency oral health access map and clinical guidance for providers during the pandemic.
This month we have also launched a campaign to raise awareness about the emerging research into the oral health impacts of e-cigarettes. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and this new research has drawn links between vaping and an increased risk of oral cancer, among other negative health outcomes.
As we prepare for a potentially modified Oral Health Day this June, tune in to our pre-event webinar on April 29, where we will discuss further details about the event and our plans to adapt pending the status of COVID-19.
Remember, we’re all in this together. I want to personally thank the frontline health care personnel for the hard work and dedication they are providing each and every day.
Dr. Zachary Brian
COVID-19 Access Map
The Collaborative has published an interactive statewide map of oral health access points to aid in patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While oral health providers have been prompted to postpone all elective procedures—following guidance from the American Dental Association and the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners—many are available to see patients who would otherwise have to seek care at a hospital’s emergency department.
North Carolinians visit emergency departments for non-traumatic oral health issues at twice the national rate. With increased pressures on emergency departments, it is important that we help patients navigate and access alternative resources.
Visit our COVID-19 resources page to see NCOHC’s interactive oral health resource map, among other useful links and information.
COVID-19 Practice Guidance
To assist oral health providers in understanding what options they have to stay safe while caring for patients, we have packaged and promoted a non-surgical, non-aerosolizing practice guideline authored by UNC Adams School of Dentistry and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health faculty.
Aerosol-producing instruments and 3-way water air syringe use risks spreading COVID-19. The procedures in this guidance offer innovative approaches to caries management without aerosolization.
What We’re Focused on This Month
Oral Cancer Awareness Month – Vaping and Oral Health
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and at NCOHC we are focusing on emerging research into the oral health impacts of vaping.
With youth-oriented advertising depicting e-cigarettes as not only a cigarette alternative, but a clean, fun, and popular choice to make, an increasing number of teens and young adults are picking up the habit, often without having ever smoked traditional cigarettes.
Thanks to new research, we know that e-cigarettes have been associated with poor oral health outcomes, from tooth decay and gum disease to a potentially increased risk of oral cancer. Without further long-term research, oral health care experts cannot say how often poor outcomes will happen, how often an individual must use an e-cigarette to be impacted by negative health outcomes, or how severe the impacts could be.
Teledentistry and COVID-19
The North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners and the American Dental Association have both recommended that dental offices postpone all elective procedures. While dentists and hygienists obviously won’t be performing oral cleanings or other routine, elective procedure virtually, education, assessments, and other diagnostic care and consultation could be provided remotely via teledentistry while waiting to resume in-person care delivery.
Crystal Adams, M.S., R.D.H., is the dental hygiene program director at Catawba Valley Community College. April 4 – 10 was National Dental Hygienists Week, so we sat down with Crystal to talk about her path to becoming a dental hygienist, the important services that hygienists provide, and changes that could be made to better allow hygienists to serve their communities.
The Ethical Imperative
A look at the American Dental Association’s Guidance on Continuing to Practice Ethically During COVID-19
Amidst uncertain times, strain occurs across the health care sector, from patient to provider. However, we all know it’s crucial that ethics are upheld even during these stressful and unprecedented times. The American Dental Association has released ethical practice reminders to assist providers as they navigate COVID-19.
Last month we published a feature of unique oral health situations around the world, from China to India, Brazil, and Africa. HIV is one of the most prominent public health issues in Africa, and oral manifestations are some of the earliest visible signs, making them important indicators to diagnose the virus.
Oral Health Day 2020 Pre-Event Webinar
In preparation for Oral Health Day, NCOHC will host a webinar on April 29 to review the logistics of the event, discuss the basics of advocacy, and offer an opportunity to answer any questions you may have.
During the webinar, we will also announce any changes to our plans for Oral Health Day 2020.
We will still host Oral Health Day 2020 on June 3, either in person or remotely, pending the status of COVID-19. The team will adjust logistics accordingly as we follow the development of the virus. This year’s theme highlights teledentistry’s role in addressing access gaps across NC, and we look forward to moving this innovative approach to access and equity forward for all North Carolinians.
Finally, if you or your partner organizations are advancing oral health access and equity in innovative ways, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Brady Blackburn to collaborate and potentially showcase your work in an upcoming newsletter!