inside oral health_KET

Photo courtesy of KET

Kentucky Educational Television (KET) recently featured the Health Three60 episode, “The Hidden Life of Your Mouth.” The episode focused on poor oral health as a gateway to systemic health problems, successful school-based prevention programs, and how oral health impacts quality of life and employment. Review highlights and watch the full episode below.

Dr. Julie McKee, Kentucky’s state dental director, and Dr. Steve Wrightson, Medical Director of Bluegrass Community Health Center, opened the segment with Reene Shaw by discussing the impact of poor oral health on chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. Drs. McKee and Wrightson believe that in recent years, the medical community has finally begun to realize that oral health care should be incorporated into the broader health care system. Dr. Wrighston, a physician, says he incorporates oral health questions and screenings during well care checkups. Integrating oral health into overall healthcare is “the only way we can get total body health,” McKee says.

Dr. Nikki Stone, mobile dental outreach director for the University of Kentucky’s North Fork Community Dental Outreach Program, and Stacy Trowbridge, dental services director for the Barren River District Health Department, discussed how they provide care to students in their respective communities. Stacy leads the Mighty Molar program, which facilitates an oral exam and cleaning for students in school-based clinics and holds the ultimate goal of finding a permanent dental home for each child. In 2015, the Mighty Molar program served about 3,700 school kids and for many kids this program serves as their only dental visit of the year. Dr. Nikki Stone coordinates a mobile van that travels to four counties in Eastern Kentucky and a head-start oral health program to provide dental services to some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens. Dr. Stone says she has seen a 20% reduction in tooth decay rates for the children in her eastern Kentucky region since the mobile clinic began operating about 10 years ago. She adds that half of kids in the service area still have some tooth decay and face many barriers to services.

Dr. McKee and Dr. Lee Mayer of the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry concluded the episode by connecting oral health to overall quality of life. Dr. Mayer pointed out that poor dental health can ultimately impact a parent’s ability to go to work or even get a job. Drs. McKee and Mayer emphasized the unequal distribution of dentists in Kentucky as a barrier to oral health care and that the quality of Kentuckians’ oral health will only improve when comprehensive preventive care is understood and routinely practiced.

Our mouths are an essential part of our bodies, serving as the vessel to many vital daily functions. We must ensure Kentucky children and families have access to quality dental services to prevent future systemic health problems. We thank the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky for funding KET’s Inside Oral Health Care production.

Click here to watch the full Health Three60 episode.