Getting the Word of Mouth to Our Patients

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By Dr. Peri Greenstein
From the Fall 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

As dentists, we know the powerful connection between oral health and overall health. We know there is a growing list of more than 120 diseases with symptoms that occur in and around the mouth, and that poor oral health can exacerbate many of the most serious and costly health conditions.

But, by and large, our patients do not know this. And they should.

That is why a growing coalition of more than 12 public health and business organizations are banding together to raise the volume on the importance of oral health and highlight the mouth’s connection to overall health.

The “Word of Mouth” campaign, spearheaded by Delta Dental of Colorado in collaboration with the CDA, is a great opportunity for dentists across Colorado to engage our patients in these important conversations. The campaign website includes a fact sheet, personal stories, a video, news coverage and other materials highlighting the connection between oral health and overall health. Through the campaign, any dentist in Colorado can request educational materials for their offices at no charge.

The campaign launched this summer and will continue throughout the year. Representatives of the campaign are visiting with community leaders throughout the state to talk about the importance of oral health, its connection to overall health, and opportunities to increase access to oral healthcare and to public education about the mouth-body connection. Campaign stops include Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Pueblo and Greeley, among others.

As part of the campaign, Delta Dental of Colorado president and CEO Helen Drexler and others share personal stories about learning first-hand the importance of oral health. Drexler supported her son through kidney transplant surgery in 2017 following a diagnosis of Berger’s Disease. She and her family learned how critical it was for transplant patients to have healthy mouths before and after surgery. Other stories include a dental hygienist in Greeley who helped identify cancer in two of her patients during routine oral health checks, and a Broomfield man whose dentist first alerted him to the possibility of a heart complication.

I’ve sent patients to their physician after finding skin lesions on their faces. We’ve caught cancers, polyps and iron deficiencies in our oral exams. My son-in-law is an orthopedic surgeon and, while undocumented, it has been reported that if someone has an infection after joint replacement surgery, it is often times associated with a tooth or gum infection.

I applaud the CDA for their work on this worthwhile campaign and encourage my peers across the state to get engaged with these discussions with your patients. They have proven time and again to save lives and improve quality of life.

The campaign targets business leaders, civic leaders, policymakers, healthcare professionals and others across the state. Campaign partners include the American Transplant Foundation, Caring for Colorado Foundation, Colorado Dental Association, Colorado Dental Hygienists Association, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Medical Society, Dental Aid, Delta Dental of Colorado, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Food Bank of the Rockies, Oral Health Colorado, and Volunteers of America Colorado.

To learn more and to download public education materials for use in your office, visit deltadentalco.com/wellness.