Recap: Oral Health Day 2020

2020 marks the fifth anniversary of Oral Health Day. Our annual advocacy event, which usually takes place in person at the North Carolina General Assembly, went digital this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to say that our first online Oral Health Day was a success! Despite struggles with technology—and even a few “zoom bombers” in the beginning—we had a great turnout, and our panel of speakers were engaging and informative.

Here are some highlights from the event

Darlene Leysath, executive director of the Cornerstone CDC, a community-based organization in Warsaw, North Carolina, kicked off the event with a passionate speech about the importance of access to quality oral health care.

State Representative John Autry of Mecklenburg County joined to discuss his career providing oral health care in the U.S. Navy, the disparities in oral health he witnessed among incoming servicemen and women, and how oral health impacts his constituents.

Dr. Shaun Matthews, the UNC Adams School of Dentistry’s director of teledentistry, joined us for his last talk before leaving the state to take on a new role. Dr. Matthews discussed some of the intricacies of teledentistry before showing a video of a live teledentistry consultation. He ended his portion of the event with a call to action for advocacy to push for better oral health policy.

Dr. Andres Flores, East Carolina University’s division director of oral and maxillofacial pathology, spoke about ECU’s extensive network of Community Service Learning Centers and how they are using teledentistry to increase access to patient care.

Dr. William Donigan joined to share his perspective as the dental director for Kintegra Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Western North Carolina.

After Dr. Donigan, The North Carolina Dental Society Executive Director Dr. Alec Parker, State Representative David Lewis, and North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners (NCSBDE) CEO Bobby White all spoke about the future of oral health from their unique perspectives.

Representative Lewis spoke about the role policymakers can play in advancing equity in oral health care. He spoke about the stigma that can come with poor oral health and the duty that elected officials have to promote policies that can help their constituents access optimal oral health care.

Dr. Parker spoke about dental community buy-in for teledentistry. He spoke about the history of telehealth, the beginnings of teledentistry technology, and how far the technology has come.

Mr. White discussed the role that the NCSBDE plays in the dental rule-making process. He spoke to the important role that advocacy organizations serve, because policy change through the legislative process is necessary to allow important rule changes to move forward.

At the end of Oral Health Day, NCOHC Director Dr. Zachary Brian discussed some of the details for Oral Health Day Part 2. Since we weren’t able to engage in advocacy at the North Carolina General Assembly this year, we have worked with Federally Qualified Health Centers across the state to organize tours for members of the community and elected officials later this fall.

As we get closer to the fall, we will announce additional details so you can join us at a community tour near you! To stay in the loop, sign up for our newsletter here.

NCOHC is a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation.