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Dental and medical professionals unite to promote oral healthcare

Message focuses on relationship between oral health and overall wellness

(Thanks to Elizabeth Puette for her review of the work done in Greenbrier County.)

West Virginia University School of Dentistry students and faculty were invited to participate in the March Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Rural Community Health Scholars Interprofessional Student Immersion event in Greenbrier County. The focus of the event is on integrating oral health into primary care curriculum. The experience included medical, nursing, physician assistant and dental students and allowed for discussion of how oral health affects overall wellness and the importance of medical and dental integration- working together to improve overall outcomes and quality of life for West Virginians.

The three-day event, held March 13-15th and organized by Angela Alston, MPH, Executive Director of Southeastern Area Health Education Center (AHEC), Mountain State Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institutions, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and Amy McIntire, SE WV AHEC and WV School of Osteopathic Medicine, in partnership with West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine Center for Rural and Community Health, WVU Dental and 100 Million Mouths Campaign.

WVU student volunteers included Jason Collett (D3) and Ariel Holliday (D2) spent their spring break at the immersive interprofessional experience and contributed to discussions regarding best evidence-based practices to integrate and improve collaboration between oral health and primary care providers in rural communities.

Jason Collete“I appreciated the experience of collaborating with other healthcare students to educate the community on the importance of oral health and its correlation to other health and disease states, and hopefully, imparting positive change on their oral healthcare management,” Jason Collett said.

The immersion event kicked off with presentations from Alston and and Elizabeth Southern Puette, RDH, MSDH, CTTS, FADHA, Assistant Professor, WVU School of Dentistry, Department of Dental Hygiene.

The messages highlighted the interprofessional role of healthcare providers to identify health issues connecting poor oral health and overall health, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and oral cancer.

Jason Roush, West Virginia State Dental Director WV Oral Health Program, Bureau for Public Health, provided an overview and discussion of oral health in rural communities. Alcinda Shockey DHSc, MA, BSDH, RDH, Professor at WVU School of Dentistry, contributed to the goal of medical and dental collaborative care education and training of professionals in fields that influence social determinants of health, such as public health and health care sectors within her presentation, “Disease, Stroke, Diabetes and Oral Health: The Mouth-body Link”. The day wrapped up Deborah Schmidt, Assistant Professor, WV School of Osteopathic Medicine, leading a hands-on learning lab on manipulation to address myofascial pain.

A dental student talks with dental hygienist Gina Sharps. Day two presented opportunity for a fluoride varnish learning lab led by Puette who serves as the current WV Oral Health Champion for 100 Million Mouths Campaign, funded by Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, and Gina Sharps, MPH, RDH, CTTS, FADHA, Executive Director of West Virginia Oral Health Coalition. Students learned about pediatric caries incidence rates and challenges in the state associated with access to care. Children under the age of three typically see their primary care provider for well child visits which provides an opportunity for the pediatric team to evaluate the child’s mouth, discuss the importance of oral health and caries prevention strategies, and refer the patient to a dentist if they currently do not have a dental home.

That afternoon, Collett and Holliday, along with WVU graduate student Gage Vincent, joined their primary care student peers in participating in a community health fair at Clingman Center in Lewisburg. Students had the opportunity to network with interprofessional peers and exhibitors as they shared oral health care tips to 53 community members on oral health and how chronic diseases, such as diabetes, can affect oral health. They distributed 100 adult toothbrushes and 25 pediatric oral care kits. Joyce Martin, administrative director at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, organized and lead the fair.

The three-day oral health integration successfully wrapped up with a Round Table Discussion and Presentation by long-time educator for integration of oral health topics into medical curricula, Dr. Louise T. Veselicky, DDS, MDS, Med, Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Center Academic Affairs and Professor of Periodontics. Veselicky is the Director of the oral health thread in the WVU medical school curriculum. “Oral health is such an important factor in complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing. It can directly affect speech, eating, learning, social interaction, and even employment potential. It was thrilling to have students from different health care professions together talking about how each can use their knowledge and skills to contribute to promotion and maintenance of oral health as part of the total health care package,” Veselicky said.