Closing the Gaps; Connecting Oral Health with Overall Health

The word catenate \ˈka-tə-ˌnāt\, means to connect things together, e.g. to form a chain. For more than twenty years, Northeast Delta Dental has been working diligently to change the old perception that the mouth and body are separate. Dental science has proven that good oral health leads to better overall health and catenate (connect) with the human body. Delta Dental has created a new organization that will take action to improve better health outcomes in several ways.

It is exciting to share with you that Northeast Delta Dental, as one of the Delta Dental Plans Association’s 39 member companies, is supporting a “first-of-its-kind national organization. This new organization is dedicated to putting a new spotlight on the importance of oral health,” as stated in a recent press release from the Delta Dental Institute, that unveiled its’ purpose to:

 “Pursue a substantive research agenda focused on answering important oral health-related inquiries including: How to reduce costs associated with preventable dental conditions; how to better integrate oral health into wellness programs in ways that improve overall health; how to most effectively integrate medical and dental care to achieve better health outcomes; and how to improve oral health literacy.”

Although there is a rich history of separation for medical health and dental health, Northeast Delta Dental is invested in reversing this outdated understanding. For instance, we took action to reverse this perception through our partnership with Tufts Health Freedom Plan, and by developing the Health through Oral Wellness® (HOW®) program that allows additional cleanings, fluoride, and sealant treatment for people with underlying medical conditions. After its first inception as a pilot program six years ago, I can proudly say that 98.7% of our group policies include the HOW® program today.

We continue to pursue innovative change to help close the medical and dental gaps, and support the Delta Dental Institute to catenate oral health and overall health.

Delta Dental Institute Mission Statement:

The Delta Dental Institute is dedicated to advancing oral health for all Americans in partnership with Delta Dental companies and dedicated partners across the country. With expertise rooted in Delta Dental’s rich history of oral health leadership, we engage in and support oral health research, community outreach, and advocacy, striving to ensure all Americans can have the healthy smile they deserve and live their healthiest lives.

 Find out more at https://www.deltadental.com/institute/

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It’s all about the smile!

Entering the summer months reminds me of the numerous outdoor activities and events that we typically enjoy with friends and family. Many of you plan vacations to your favorite summer destinations. As you do so, remember to think about maintaining a healthy smile.

Many summertime parties, fairs, or festivals include lots of sugary favorites. Giving attention to your teeth and gums helps to avoid restorative care such as fillings and root canals, and also helps to maintain your overall health. Keeping up with a good brushing and flossing regimen can lower the risk of tooth decay, reduce sugar exposure, and help avoid tooth decay or dental caries. You will be less likely to eat more sugary treats after brushing.

Drinking water helps flush out excess sugar on tooth surfaces that cause decay. Water has numerous benefits and making sure you stay hydrated (especially during road races and visits to the gym) adds to your overall health and wellness.

Be mindful about your oral health and involve your children. Starting their good oral health habits early will prevent potential caries and reduce risk of gum disease. Northeast Delta Dental teams up with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats to encourage the development of good oral health habits. Children who brush and floss daily can earn two tickets to a Fisher Cats game; find more details here.

While planning your summer vacations and events, planning your oral health routine ensures that your family’s oral health future will be bright. Smiles are such simple joygestures.

Did you know that?

  • Smiling helps relieve stress
  • Smiling makes a great first impression
  • Smiling can help you live longer
  • Smiling reduces blood pressure

Smile more, and develop an oral health routine that you’re whole family can benefit from. Learn more about how to keep your smile in check by clicking on this link.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  I often speak throughout New Hampshire with Former NH Supreme Court Justice, The Honorable John T. Broderick, Jr., on this topic as mental health is critically important to overall health.  What does this have to do with dental health?  Let’s think about it for a minute.  Your smile shows the world who you are.  Also, there is science behind this.  Those who suffer with anxiety are more prone to oral health conditions such as canker sores, grinding your teeth while you sleep (bruxism), or dry mouth.  https://www.deltadental.com/grinmag/us/en/ddpa/2017/wellness/oral-and-mental-health-connection.html

What’s more, if you are struggling with your mental health, this is often communicated through your smile.  Judge Broderick and I often share the “Five Signs of Mental Distress,” originally created by the Campaign to Change Direction.  These signs seem so simple when you think about them, but they are important to be aware of.  If you are not feeling like yourself, withdrawn from normal activities, more easily agitated, not taking care of yourself, and feeling hopeless, or, if you notice that one of your friends or a loved one is exhibiting these behaviors, there is help available.

A number of mental health organizations throughout our state are offering events through the end of this month to highlight the importance of mental health and increase awareness.  Learn more about how you can take control of your mental health and how you may be able to help others access help and services.

Lakes Region Mental Health Center https://www.lrmhc.org/lrmhc-recognizes-mental-health-awareness-month/

Riverbend Community Mental Health https://www.riverbendcmhc.org/celebrate-mental-health-may-and-every-day/

Campaign to Change Direction

https://www.changedirection.org/

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Paying attention to your oral health can save your life

We tend to move through the world in a hurried way and often overlook health concerns that can be more serious than we initially thought. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.  Oral cancer is a disease that more than 10,000 people lose their lives to every year and too often goes undetected.

By visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings, your dentist and dental hygienist are helping you catch oral cancer symptoms early through routine screenings.  This is also one of the important reasons your dentist and hygienist will ask you if you’ve been having any problems with your teeth or gums at every visit and if you’ve noticed any changes.  Catching oral cancer early usually leads to a better outcome.

If you notice a strange lump or spot on the inside or outside of your lips, cheeks, throat, gums, tongue, or on the roof or bottom of your mouth, you should meet with your dentist or physician promptly.  It is important to do monthly self-checks using a mirror and a bright light to detect any issues.

Some of the most common oral cancer symptoms include:

  • Sores or irritations that don’t go away
  • Pain or discomfort when speaking, moving your tongue or jaw, swallowing or chewing.
  • Red or white patches
  • Ear pain without hearing loss that can’t be explained
  • Tenderness, tingling, numbness, or pain in your mouth or on your lips
  • Feeling like something is caught in your throat
  • A lump or thickened rough spot that may appear crusty or a small eroded area.

If you notice any of the symptoms above and they last for more than two weeks, check-in with your dentist or other medical professional.

If your dentist detects anything unusual, further testing will likely be recommended.

Learn more about oral cancer here:

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World Oral Health Day

Today is World Oral Health Day!  Celebrated annually on March 20, World Oral Health Day is an international day to celebrate the health benefits of good oral health and to promote awareness of proper oral health and oral hygiene practices around the world.  World Oral Health Day is hosted by the World Dental Federation, whose mission is to be the voice of dentistry, promote oral health for everyone, support member associations and advance the ethics, science and practice of dentistry.

The official theme of the 2019 World Oral Health Day (WOHD) campaign is “Say Ahh: Act on Mouth Health.”  Through this campaign, the World Dental Federation (WDF) is asking individuals to take concrete action to protect their oral health.

Oral diseases can impact every aspect of life and are associated with many general health conditions. This World Oral Health Day, the World Dental Federation wants people to make the connection between their oral health and general health and understand the impact that one has on the other.

Here at Northeast Delta Dental, one of the many ways that we work to increase awareness of oral disease among our subscribers, is through our Health through Oral Wellness® (HOW®) program.  The HOW® program helps patients to better understand their risk for oral disease and encourages them to have a conversation with their dentist about their oral health risk.

Knowing how to protect your mouth and body at all ages contributes to a better quality of life. World Oral Health Day encourages all stakeholders to work together to secure optimal oral health for all and commit to “Act on Mouth Health”.

Additional resources are available at www.worldoralhealthday.org

Image courtesy of the World Dental Federation.

World Oral Health Day-2March 20 2019

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National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) is brought to you by the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA website explains that in 1941, this program began as a one day event, changing to a week-long event in 1955, and month-long national health observance in 1981.  Today this brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.

In past years, Northeast Delta Dental partnered with the dental societies in New Hampshire and Vermont on educational and free visits for youth, and other relevant activities. This year we are supporting the Nashua Adult Learning Center’s Early Childhood Adventures Program.  Their educational series, Hey! Look at My Healthy Teeth! is being used in their Early Childhood Adventures program and Family Connections workshops.  This series features education on dental care and the importance of good oral health.

We also support access to oral health care through a partnership with Virtudent each school year at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire; Boys & Girls Club of Greater Manchester, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua and Spaulding Youth Center. We also donated 1,600 toothbrushes and 300 Grin! for Kids! activity books to schools and dental centers who have educational programs scheduled.

Download our Grin for Kids! activity book here to help your child or family member learn more about good oral health.  The pages are filled with fun and interactive activities and coloring pages.

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REACT Cards for Public Safety Officials

Last week, I was honored to participate in a media opportunity at Riverbend Community Mental Health among law enforcement and fire officials, and other community leaders to increase the awareness of the availability of an important resource for public safety officials, REACT Cards.  Northeast Delta Dental is proud to partner with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to co-sponsor important public health events and I welcome the opportunity to join former Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court, The Honorable John T. Broderick, Jr., to spread the word about the importance of “above the neck” health.

During one of our recent presentations for the NH Police Association, we highlighted the acronym used in Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s mental health awareness campaign, “REACT” which represents:

R – Recognize the signs
E – Express concern
A – Act now and talk to someone you trust
C – Care enough to follow through and follow up
T – Text signs to 741-741

While this program was originally created for schools, Sergeant Timothy King of the Concord NH Police Department asked if Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Northeast Delta Dental might consider developing health and substance abuse focused REACT Cards specifically for law enforcement officials.  This made perfect sense as police and fire officials often encounter citizens in need of these services while performing their duties.

Captain Patrick Cheetham of the Londonderry Police Department (Immediate Past President of the NH Police Association) worked closely with Judge Broderick and I to make this a reality.  I am proud to have played a role in providing this important community resource to assist our law enforcement and fire officials as I believe having the information ready, and in a succinct manner, will assist citizens in accessing necessary services.

For more information about the REACT Awareness Campaign, please visit: https://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/about_dh/react-awareness-campaign.html

Cheetham_Raffio_Broderick_King

Pictured from left to right:  Immediate Past President of the NH Police Association and Londonderry Police Captain, Patrick Cheetham; President & CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, Tom Raffio; Senior Director of External Affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Former NH Supreme Court Justice, John T. Broderick, Jr.; and Concord Police Sergeant, Timothy King.

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