Archive for the ‘Regional Oral Health News’ Category

Free Dental Care for Adults – May 5, 2012

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Free Dental Care. The Vermont State Dental Society is sponsoring  statewide free dental care on May 5, 2012.  Vermont is the first state to offer this event with dentists across the state participating.  Here in the Upper Valley, Drs. Kraitz, Gold and Blicher have reach across the river and enlisted New Hampshire dentists to make this an Upper Valley event.     The participating dentists are Drs. Baker, Blicher, Denk, Gold, Governo, Kravitz, Meyers, Petrescu-Boboc, Santavicca and Willette.  Along with these dentists, hygienists and dental assistants are also voluntering their time for patient care.  In preparation for May 5th, 46 patients have had oral health screenings and xrays at the Red Logan Clinic in White River Junction, and will have follow up care at Red Logan, as needed, after May 5th.  The range of services include hygiene, restoration, root canals and extractions.   Partners in the Upper Valley include the Vermont State Dental Society, Grafton Sullivan County Dental Society, the Red Logan Dental Clinic and the Community Oral Health Initiative of the Upper Valley.

March 7th Presentation – Pediatric Oral Health Disparities

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

View Video Presentation: Pediatric Oral Health Disparities

COHI member Dr. Steven Chapman (Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, Medical Director, General Pediatrics Clinic Medical Director, Boyle Community Pediatrics Program, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center) will be presenting “Pediatric Oral Health Disparities” at Pediatric Grand Rounds on Wednesday, March 7th from 8-9 a.m. in Auditorium E, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Lebanon, New Hampshire. Dr. Chapman’s presentation will highlight both the unmet needs and role of pediatricians in addressing the oral health of children and families. The public is invited.

Improving Oral Health – Letter to the Editor, Valley News 2/4/12

Monday, February 20th, 2012

To the Editor:

In response to “Sucrose is Bad for the Teeth” letter, COHI (the
Community Oral Health Initiative) invites the writer and others to
join its efforts to improve oral health of children, families and
adults in the Upper Valley. COHI, a group of Upper Valley residents
who recognize the importance of oral health in their own work, draws
upon the knowledge of practicing dentists, directors of local health
foundations and community health workers to discuss the most pressing
oral health access and advocacy issues currently facing their

Two programs worth noting in our community that address children’s
oral health are Upper Valley Smiles and Upper Valley HEAL. Upper
Valley Smiles, a school-based program of Alice Peck Day Memorial
Hospital, provides oral health education, screenings, and preventive
services (fluoride varnish and sealants) for students in Lebanon,
Enfield, Canaan, White River and Newport elementary schools. With
financial support from the DHMC Dept. of Community Health Improvement
and the Boyle Fund at the VT Community Foundation, APD’s Upper Valley
Smiles dental hygienist also provides oral health education,
screenings and preventive services for young children at the Lebanon
and Hartford WIC clinics. Upper Valley HEAL (Healthy Eating Active
Living), hosted by the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, is working
with numerous early care centers to limit fruit drinks; assisting
schools, including the Mascoma District, to significantly limit the
availability of sugar-sweetened juice drinks offered in their schools,
and partnering with several regional recreation departments and
after-school programs to shape policies and practices that promote
water and low-fat milk, while limiting children’s access to
sugar-added beverages. Upper Valley HEAL hopes to have 50-100
regional organizations “signed-on” as partners in this effort during

COHI welcomes members of the community to join its efforts. For more
information, please go to or call Nancy DuMont,
APD Community Health, at 603-443-9548.

Toni LaMonica, Co-Chair of COHI
Hanover, NH

Upper Valley Program Teaches Children to “Be in Charge of Their Own Dental Health”

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Excerpts from Valley News article “Upper Valley Program Teaches Children to ‘Be in Charge of Their Own Dental Health’” published April 11, 2011.

Dental Disease has been called a silent epidemic that affects up to 23 percent of the nation’s children and nearly half the adult population who fall below the federal poverty line…

As with many other diseases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and both dental and medical professionals are working to improve access to dental care for children and adults. In this region, Upper Valley Smiles, a program in Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital’s Department of Community Health brings dental care and screening into the Lebanon, Canaan, Enfield and White River Junction school districts for uninsured or under-insured children in grades K through 3…

The way Upper Valley Smiles works is this: a team of a dentist, hygienist and an assistant go into a school once a year to screen children, who have been given permission to attend by their parents, for such dental issues as cavities, injuries that have resulted in trauma to the mouth and teeth and poorly positioned teeth or abscesses.

“We determine which children are at risk and identify those teeth that need restorative attention or sealants, and everybody gets a fluoride varnish,” said Dr. Bob Keene, a Hanover resident and the dentist currently affiliated with Upper Valley Smiles.

The idea, Keene said, is to “teach people to be in charge of their own dental health.” Dentistry is “the art of behavior modification.” Children need constant reminders to brush at least twice daily and to floss. At the screenings, he and the hygienist try to “teach, encourage and help kids learn the skills they need to maintain a life of comfort and health.” Children are also given a handout for maintaining good dental practices at home…

Read full article >

Reprint of Putting Teeth Into Health Reform

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

In April, 2009, two COHI members, dentist Toby Kravitz and foundation director Tom Roberts, teamed up to write an op ed piece that ran in The Valley News.  The article is reprinted here, in its entirety:

Putting Teeth into Health Care Reform

There’s a communicable disease rampant in many people’s bodies.

Untreated, it can lead to organ loss, the possibility of abscesses, brain infection and even death. It is the most common chronic disease in children. If this disease occurred anywhere else in the body, the Center for Disease Control would likely have declared a public health emergency.

But the body part affected is our mouths. The organs are our teeth. The disease is caries, better known as dental decay or cavities.

In Vermont and New Hampshire, we can see the signs of an oral health crisis taking place around us: People walking into emergency rooms with so much pain that they are begging to have their teeth pulled out. Too many young adults have mouths riddled with bad teeth and need of dentures or a mouthful of extensive and expensive dental care.

A local organization, the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, provides grants on behalf of individuals who can’t afford their health care for those who live in their service area. Oral health requests now pre-dominate. Last year, two-thirds of applications and two-thirds of dollars went to dental needs.

Studies show that poor oral health impacts overall health, leading to chronic pain and making it harder to succeed in school or find a job. Yet we have a health care system that continues to treat the mouth as if it was not a part of our body. And there’s a different tolerance of what’s acceptable in the way of disease, chronic pain and risk to the body. There is a different set of insurances for dental care, both private and public. Only half the population has dental insurance.

People without sufficient insurance and people without the means to pay for dental care are going without the oral health care that they need. Those with Medicaid struggle to find a dentist who will treat them. Adults on Medicaid are faced with restricted benefits and limited access.

Although many area dentists do take Medicaid patients, donate their time or work for reduced fees for needy patients, many do not. Why don’t more take Medicaid? The reimbursement rate is less than 65 percent of the true cost, which does not allow dentists to cover their overhead rates. Others are concerned about a higher no-show rate for these appointments. The limitations on Medicaid dental benefits for adults create additional barriers.

A doctor in an emergency room doesn’t get paid any less if her patients don’t pay their bills, nor does a primary care doctor working for a hospital see their salary decline if a patient doesn’t show up. Most dentists on the other hand, have small offices, with one or two dentists, where there is a direct connection between who pays and what the practice’s income looks like at the end of the month.

Too many people do not place a priority on their personal oral health. Some have learned from their parents that they likely will lose all their teeth before they are 60 and don’t even try to keep up oral hygiene.

Concerned about oral health needs in the Upper Valley, a dedicated group of dentists, health care providers and funders have formed the Community Oral Health Initiative to look for solutions to our communities’ oral health needs.

How will we improve our oral health? There are roles for all of us to play. We all need to recognize as a matter of public policy that oral health needs to be on par with other health care needs. Then coverage for care and proper reimbursement rates need to be prioritized so that they are aligned with other health care needs.

Dentists will play a part. As the Medicaid scope of coverage and rates improve, more dentists will participate in the program. Dentists will continue to volunteer their time at free clinics like the Red Logan. And they will continue to forgive a portion of their fee to participate in Ottauquechee’s Good Neighbor grant program. If there is community interest perhaps that program might extend beyond the Woodstock area to cover the entire Upper Valley.

And each of us has a role. We can help change community norms so that all children grow up expecting to have a healthy set of teeth. We need to each take personal responsibility for our oral health care and for that of our children. The basic preventive steps—brushing, flossing, eating snacks like apples that clean our teeth in the middle of the day and staying away from high sugar foods, especially sipping on soda and energy drinks throughout the day—can go a long way to ensure we only need to visit our dentist for regular preventive appointments.

Our oral health must become a priority, both in the Upper Valley and in the rest of the country. It is a problem that is ours to solve and solutions are within our reach, so that everyone, rich or poor, has the same access to care for a hole in their teeth or gums as for a hole in their arm.

As national attention turns to health care reform, one message we ought to all agree on is that we must put teeth into health care reform.

Toby Kravitz, DDS, is a Norwich dentist and chair of the Community Oral Health Initiative. Tom Roberts is the director of the Ottauquechee Health Foundation and past chair of COHI.

Tom Roberts

Oral Health and Dr. Kim

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Not long ago, I sent a letter to President Kim at Dartmouth College. In it, I asked him to consider the importance of oral health care delivery during the creation of Dartmouth’s new Center for Health Care Delivery Science. What is health care delivery science? The website for the Center states that health care delivery science “picks up where basic, clinical and evaluative science leaves off: it studies how we bring best practices of care to every patient, every time.”

In my letter, I mention that “my work at Ottauquechee Health Foundation (OHF) has enabled me to interact with a variety of professionals, from nurses and social workers to dentists and community health professionals. These interactions, alongside my own research into the current state of oral health in this country (particularly oral health among Vermont and New Hampshire residents) has underscored the immense importance of oral health to an individual’s total health. In the spirit of Dartmouth’s commitment to improving the quality of medical care and health services delivery, I would like to pass along to you my hope that researchers at the new Center for Health Care Delivery Science consider the need for effective, safe and patient-centered health delivery in all of health’s varied forms.

One of the guiding principles of my work at OHF has been that oral health should not be separated from overall health. I hope that under your leadership Dartmouth’s health services and delivery research agenda commits itself to a similarly integrative vision.”

Dr. Kim responded by assuring me that once Dr. Albert Mulley assumes his post as director of the new Center on Nov. 15, Dr. Kim and his colleague Dan Lee would begin reviewing recommendations such as my own.

Stay tuned for future updates on this effort…

Vanessa Hurley

Making Strides Toward Better Oral Health in Claremont

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Although the Community Dental Care Center in Claremont, NH has only been open for a little over a year, over 1,200 patients have already had their oral health needs addressed by the center’s staff, according to an article by Angel Roy on July 7, 2010 in the Eagle Times. On the day of the dental center’s opening, June 23, 2009, office manager Carolyn Girard commented that a line of people could be seen outside the front door. That line was but one indication of the distinct need for oral health services for Claremont residents that Karen Dewey and members of the Sullivan County Oral Health Collaborative spent much time and energy trying to understand. With funding from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the Endowment for Health and the city of Claremont, the Collaborative took it upon themselves to initiate the planning needed for a project of this type.

Housed in Opera House Square, the seven-person staff at the dental center helps patients with a variety of insurance types, from New Hampshire Medicaid and Healthy Kids to self-pay patients. Dewey attributes the project’s success to the fact that it is a center rather than a clinic, allowing the dental practitioners to “serve everybody because everybody needs a dental home,” as Dewey puts it.

Since the opening of the dental center, Dr. Charles Sawyer, a staff member of the emergency medicine department at local Valley Regional Hospital has noticed “a decrease in patients accessing emergency services for dental issues, such as the need for extractions.”Although New Hampshire Medicaid only covers emergency services related to adult dental needs, the dental center has provided accessible, affordable care to individuals who might not otherwise find it. Both Dewey and her husband have seen the need for oral health in the Claremont community since they moved there 34 years ago. Dewey’s husband, a physician’s assistant, commented after his first day of work, “I cannot believe the dental disease.” Dewey comments that “I started the oral health collaborative seven years ago – 27 years later we were still talking about dental disease. That’s absurd.”

What Roy makes clear in her article is that the dental center’s existence was rooted in the identification and action of the collaborative as well as other Claremont citizens who see the center as a stride toward finally addressing a long-seated community need.