SOUTH BURLINGTON >> At the annual meeting of the Vermont State Dental Society, Vermont's community dentists kicked off a yearlong campaign to reduce oral health disease and highlight the role community dentists play beyond the care they provide their patients.
"Vermont's community dentists are trusted community leaders who are dedicated to delivering quality care to patients, advocating for them outside of their practices and serving their communities," said Vaughn Collins, executive director of the Vermont State Dental Society. "Care Beyond the Chair is a yearlong initiative focused on local, regional and statewide advocacy to improve the health and wellness of Vermonters that extends beyond the care provided to each patient."
According to the National Survey of Children's Health, Vermont has a lot to smile about. The state ranks first in kids with no dental health problems and is the second healthiest state in the U.S., according to the United Health Foundation.
"We're healthy and happy — and that's a something to be proud of. But, we can do even more to improve Vermonters dental health," Collins said. "Research has shown associations between gum disease and other health conditions like heart disease, stroke, premature births and low birth weight, and proven links between gum disease and diabetes. That's why Vermont's community dentists are committed to expanding our system of care to ensure Vermonters are receiving the oral health services they need, when they need them and at a cost they can afford."
To do that, Collins said VSDS members would prioritize prevention and proper brushing, flossing and healthy eating. Too many kids and adults still do not brush and floss regularly. This easy and inexpensive practice can dramatically reduce rates of oral health disease and the costs of care.
Dentists should also help more communities benefit from fluoride. This naturally occurring mineral provides scientifically proven health benefits. One dollar pent on fluoride saves about $38 in dental treatment costs.
The state can also expand the Successful Tooth Tutor Program to all school districts; 26,000 eligible children did not see a dentist in 2013. The state could also add Expanded Function Dental Assistants, who are thoroughly trained to deliver an expanded range of care in dental practices, schools and clinics.
The Vermont Department of Health currently contracts with dental hygienists to provide services and referrals to dentists in about half of its regional offices. To help underserved Vermonters achieve oral health, VSDS believes there should be a community-based hygienist in each regional office.
"We believe our patients strongly support the effort Vermont's community dentists make to extend their care beyond the chair," Collins said. "Advocating for these important priorities through a coordinated statewide campaign also helps to remind everyone that we all have a roll to play in making Vermont a healthier and more affordable state."