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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Granite State Baseball Dinner a win for baseball fans and the community

Over the weekend, I attended the Granite State Baseball Dinner hosted by the NH Fisher Cats.  The evening was really exciting for baseball fans especially with the recent Boston Red Sox World Series victory. While I am a Fisher Cats fan, I am also an avid Boston sports fan.  I was delighted to see the Boston Red Sox alums: Orlando Cabrera, Rich Gedman, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Rico Petrocelli, Bob Stanley, and Luis Tiant, on the celebrity guest list.

Through corporate sponsorships and the community’s generosity, this event has raised $1.7 million since 2006 to support the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), The Ted Williams Museum, and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Foundation.  At the event, we listened to a very compelling testimonial from a CHaD father who shared the story of how CHaD saved his son’s life.

Every year at this event, I have the pleasure to present the Gold Crown Award to an outstanding NH Fisher Cats Player.  This year, I had the honor of presenting this to Pat Cantwell.  Not only is Pat a stellar Eastern League Champion catcher, he went out of his way to enhance the fan experience at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium through taking pictures with fans, greeting them at the front gate, and he even joined a group of fans to watch a postgame Atlas Fireworks show. Away from the field, Pat was always the first player to step-up and volunteer at various community events, including a MLB Play Ball Weekend at Camp Foster.

This year’s event raised more than $90,000 to support three wonderful community organizations.  I look forward to attending this event every year and I am proud to serve on the Board of the NH Fisher Cats Foundation.  Partnerships like the Fisher Cats are critical to helping Northeast Delta Dental spread our message about the importance of oral health.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.

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Honoring our Military Heroes

Northeast Delta Dental is proud to support our military heroes through sponsoring several ceremonial events to honor veterans for their service and/or organizations that help veterans access necessary services such as health care, affordable housing, job training, etc. We also support various dental health initiatives for veterans as the oral health needs of our military heroes are vast.

I have provide a few ceremonial opportunities taking place this weekend if you are interested in participating to honor our Veterans or the special Veteran in your life.

  1. Ceremony at the State Veterans Cemetery

The Department of the New Hampshire American Legion (AL) and staff of the State Veterans Cemetery will host a Veterans Day Ceremony on Sunday, November 11th from 11 a.m. to noon at the Veterans Cemetery (110 Daniel Webster Highway in Boscawen, NH).  This is easy to get to via exit 17 on Route 93.

Visitors are encouraged to arrive by 10:30 a.m. to avoid a traffic back-up and allow enough time to park and walk to the ceremony.  Seating at the ceremony will be limited – visitors are also encouraged to bring a lawn or other folding chair for comfort.

Northeast Delta Dental is proud to have contributed to the newly-constructed Veterans Heritage Learning Center which is on-site of the Veterans Cemetery, to allow for an interactive exhibit.

  1. McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center event

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center will be offering complimentary admission to active-duty military members, veterans, and their families on Sunday, November 11th between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The day will feature special activities throughout the day for children and adults, recognizing the service veterans, active duty military and their families give to our nation. Northeast Delta Dental is proud to underwrite this important event.

  1. Veterans Count (a program of Easterseals)

For a comprehensive list of events taking place in your area, please visit:  http://vetscount.org/ and select your state.  Northeast Delta Dental is proud to support Easterseals and Veterans Count.

Also, if you are a veteran in need of dental care, Henniker Family Dentistry located at 144 Hall Ave in Henniker is hosting a Free Dental Care Day for veterans on Saturday, November 10th from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are limited; however, those who are interested should call Henniker Family Dentistry at 603-428-3419 for more information or to reserve a time slot.  Please note that you will be required to bring proof of service to the appointment by showing your DD Form 214, or your license that states your veteran status.

I hope you are able to celebrate Veterans Day in a way that is meaningful to you.  I am grateful for the service of our military heroes and to those veterans who are reading this blog, I thank you for your dedication and service.

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Back to School: Reexamining Oral Health Habits

The beginning of a new school year provides parents with opportunities to reexamine oral health habits that may have been more relaxed during the summer. Building and maintaining beneficial self-care habits are especially important for children, because the habits they practice at a young age are likely to last a lifetime. 

We particularly think about healthy smiles at this time of year, because healthy smiles can improve our children’s confidence and classroom successes. Conversely, unresolved dental problems can be painful and embarrassing and can cause children to have a difficult time participating or concentrating. Serious tooth decay can also affect overall health and lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning. 

Everyone wants their children to succeed at school, so try these strategies.  Pack your student a healthy lunch. Limit sugary snacks and high-starch or refined carbohydrate foods (which include chips, pretzels, cookies, white bread, and dried fruit). Send milk or water instead of juice as a lunchtime beverage. The bacteria that cause tooth decay thrive on simple sugars, especially those in sticky foods and drinks. Schedule regular dental appointments. Encourage children to brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, gently brushing teeth for two minutes each time and paying special attention to the gum line, and floss teeth at least once a day.

Enforcing good oral health habits is no easy task. Delta Dental received responses from 1,322 parents of children ages 12 and under to a national children’s oral health survey in December 2017. Survey results show that parents worry more daily about their child’s oral health (39 percent) than they do about school performance (25 percent) or physical activity (24 percent). Results also indicate that many children are not following recommended guidelines for brushing and flossing teeth, potentially leading to oral health problems. Seventy-eight percent of parents confessed that their child’s oral health isn’t as good as it could be, with 64 percent disclosing that their child currently has oral health issues (31 percent with cavities). 

The survey suggests that parents are more likely to say that getting their child to floss regularly (45 percent) or brush their teeth (37 percent) is challenging than they are to say this about getting their child to complete homework on time (25 percent).  One way to encourage brushing teeth for a full two minutes each time is by using a toothbrush timer. Delta Dental offers a free mobile app to make tooth brushing more fun for children. The app is optimized for smartphones and tablets and is available for download in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.  

While parents responding to the survey shared that their children’s oral health is a priority over their own, our own habits show our children what we value. When our children see us taking care of our own teeth and gums, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about preventive oral health practices and regular dental office visits.

Before your calendar fills up with school activities, schedule routine dental appointments for your children and yourself. No matter how consistent our oral hygiene habits are, dental visits provide benefits that regular brushing and flossing can’t–like removing tartar buildup. Scheduling regular dental check-ups as a part of a child’s preventive oral health routine minimizes the need to miss school during the academic year for treatment of dental emergencies. 

Northeast Delta Dental is a trusted source for oral health information, and you can learn more from our oral health library at www.nedelta.com or at SmileCoachMonthly.com.

Tom Raffio
President & CEO
Northeast Delta Dental

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