Have you brushed up on your understanding of good oral health lately? If not, you might consider doing so.
“Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations,” a report released by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council this week, calls for expanding the role of physicians, nurses, and other non-dental professionals to recognize the risk for oral diseases, which can contribute to increased risk of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as well as inappropriate use of hospital emergency departments for preventable dental diseases.
“The consequences of insufficient access to oral health care and resultant poor oral health—at both the individual and population levels—are far-reaching,” Dr. Frederick Rivara, chair of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and chair of the committee that wrote the report said in a prepared statement. “As the nation struggles to address the larger systemic issues of access to health care, we need to ensure that oral health is recognized as a basic component of overall health.”
In 2008, according to the report, 4.6 million children did not obtain needed dental care because their families could not afford it. And in 2006, only 38% of retirees had dental coverage, which is not covered by Medicare.
One report recommendation calls for the Health Resources and Services Administration to convey key stakeholders to develop a set of core oral health competencies for nondental healthcare professionals—competencies that would be integrated into their requirement for accreditation and be a criterion for certification and maintenance of certification.
Once established, the minimum core competencies “will need to prepare graduates to recognize risk for oral disease through competent oral examinations, provide basic oral health information, integrate oral health information with diet and lifestyle counseling, and make and track referrals to dental professionals,” the report states.
The report was sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the California HealthCare Foundation.
— Doug Brunk (on Twitter@dougbrunk)