This month we have a teledentistry-heavy newsletter for you. We attended a fantastic teledentistry symposium co-hosted by UNC and ECU’s dental schools, traveled to the Medical University of South Carolina to tour its telehealth facilities, and are gearing up for our teledentistry-themed Oral Health Day 2020.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Oral Health Day 2020 page here, register to join us for a day of advocacy at the North Carolina Legislature, and read on to learn more about teledentistry and why legislative advocacy is so important to its success in our state.
Also in this newsletter, learn more about how non-medical factors impact our mouths, explore the relationship between pregnancy and oral health, and see what our partners have to say about the role of philanthropy in systems change.
Dr. Zachary Brian
Speakers from across North Carolina joined oral health professionals at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry to discuss technological innovations in oral health care and how they can be implemented to increase access across North Carolina.
We may have better barbecue and sports here in North Carolina, but we aren’t above looking to our neighbors to the south for their expertise every now and then.
Last month, NCOHC travelled with North Carolina oral health leaders to Charleston, South Carolina, for a tour of the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) Telehealth Center of Excellence. We had the opportunity to discuss telehealth with leading experts in the field, and we joined Dr. Walter Renne for a live demonstration of cutting edge teledentistry technology. Read more here, and check out our video documenting the trip!
What We’re Focused on This Month
Earlier this month, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in response to the Coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19. Don’t go fight your neighbor over the last roll of toilet paper at the corner store just yet; the state of emergency doesn’t mean we have gone off the deep end. The governor’s declaration allows our state government to access and distribute resources necessary for health care professionals as they prepare and coordinate an effective response to the virus.
As we learn more about Covid-19 and how far it has spread, the NC Department of Health and Human Services published this guide to help individuals and organizations understand what measures are appropriate to take. Here are a few things to consider to avoid getting sick and spreading the disease:
Wash your hands often. (You really should be doing this anyway.)
Stay home if you are sick. (Again, you shouldn’t go to work sick, even when there isn’t a global disease outbreak.)
Limit close contact with others while in public spaces, and give people around you more physical space.
Instead of handshakes, consider elbow bumps or fist bumps. (We endorse making this change permanent to spice up the workplace.)
The ADA suggests changing your toothbrush every three months, when the bristles become frayed, or after you are ill. If you feel sick or have been sick, change your toothbrush. (One last time, you should always do this! Your mouth is full of germs when you are sick. You don’t want that on your toothbrush!)
It can be difficult to understand what’s going on during a public health emergency like this, and it is easy to question how serious the disease actually is. Covid-19 isn’t particularly deadly for most of the population, so the emergency declarations and event cancellations can seem frivolous.
But to a subset of the population—those already vulnerable—the disease can be deadly, and our health care system needs to be capable of caring for them quickly and effectively. This graph helps explain why preventive measures like social distancing can really help our health care system effectively care for those who do get sick.
In the coming weeks it is especially important that oral health providers take extra precautions to protect themselves and their patients. The American Dental Association and the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners have both recommended that dental offices postpone elective procedures to help limit the spread of Covid-19.
Because of the close contact oral health care providers have with their patients, dental offices are highly transmissible environments. This New York Times article ranks dentists among the most at risk for exposure to Covid-19.
Follow these links for the NCSBE statement and the ADA statement on Covid-19, and click here to navigate to NCOHC’s Covid-19 page, where we will continue to post up-to-date information and guidance for patients and health care professionals.
How the World Around Us Impacts Our Oral Health
Only 20 percent of a person’s health is the result of clinical care in a medical or dental provider’s office. The other 80 percent comes from a variety of non-medical factors. To reach equity in oral health, our health care system must address that 80 percent, which means accounting for external influences in patient’s lives.
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body: Oral Health During Pregnancy
Parts one and two of our series, “Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body,” focused on heart disease, diabetes, and how the two are linked to oral disease. Part three covers how pregnancy can impact a mother’s oral health.
Pregnant mothers experience important changes in their bodies during pregnancy that can impact oral health. For example, hormone imbalances can lead to gingivitis in the expecting mother. In addition, increased vomiting from morning sickness can increase the likelihood of developing cavities and tooth erosion (stripping of the tooth’s enamel). Read the full post here.
Katie Eyes and Stacy Warren
Katie Eyes, vice president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation, and Stacy Warren, program officer at The Duke Endowment, co-authored an article in Health Affairs Magazine earlier this month about philanthropy and its role in systems change.
Eyes and Warren are both members of NCOHC’s advisory team, and they have a long combined history of guiding effective funding in oral health advocacy. Read their article to learn how philanthropic organizations can build partnerships, identify needs, and mobilize to change the landscape of oral health care.
Did You Know?
February was National Children’s Oral Health Month
Did you know that tooth decay is the top chronic disease during childhood, more common than asthma? Even though tooth decay and other oral health issues are almost entirely preventable, roughly one in five children ages 5 – 11, and nearly half of all children in low-income families, are affected by tooth decay.
Check out this post from Sarah Vidrine, an NCOHC advisory team member and policy analyst at NC Child, about Children’s Dental Health Month and the important work we are doing to increase access to preventive oral health care.
Oral Health Day 2020
This year’s Oral Health Day will be on June 3, 2020. We have had great response so far so reserve your spot today and join us for a day of oral health advocacy at the North Carolina General Assembly!
Clinical Conference on Quality and Chronic Disease CANCELLED
The North Carolina Community Health Center Association has canceled the 2020 Clinical Conference on Quality and Chronic Disease out of an abundance of caution and to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
If you were planning to join us for our announcement of the Janet Reaves award, or if you are an award nominee, we will soon announce plans to re-schedule the award presentation. Thank you for your understanding.
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!