SGIM Forum

Sign of the Times

Oral Health Champions Ready to Revolutionize Internal Medicine Education

Dr. Silk (hugh.silk@umassmemorial.org) is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and is a primary investigator at the Center of Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health.

Oral health is an important aspect of our patients’ overall health. Dental caries is the most pervasive infectious disease in the world—one that impacts 90% of adults in the United States.1 Caries and periodontitis can cause worsening of diabetes and heart disease and lead to hospitalizations, loss of time from work, and poor self-esteem.2, 3 Furthermore, it is a health equity issue; close to twice as many Black and Mexican-American adults have untreated cavities compared to non-Hispanic White adults.4 Meanwhile, tens of millions have no access to a dentist for various reasons, including a shortfall of approximately 10,000 dentists.5 We need internal medicine academic doctors to help bridge this gap in care and address this important health issue. Now there is a unique opportunity for internists to help improve oral health outcomes.

The Center for the Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health (CIPCOH) is looking for individuals to join the One Hundred Million Mouths Campaign (100MMC), our national network of oral health education. The 100MMC will create 50 oral health champions over the next decade, one in each state, to work with health profession schools/programs (internal medicine residencies, medical schools, physician assistant schools, et al) in order to integrate oral health into their curricula. Champions will also be selected from primary care backgrounds.

Individuals who are chosen to be state champion will be trained and provided with tools and resources to engage schools and programs in their state to teach more oral health to their students and residents. Each of the selected champions will collect a small stipend and an allowance for supplies as well as funding to offer stipends to patients to engage them as patient-educators participating in planning and teaching and funds to cover other costs (e.g., travel, parking, supplies).

Currently there are champions in Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, and Tennessee with new Champions being selected and trained in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Ohio. If you are an internal medicine clerkship director or a residency program director and would like to have a champion work with your school or residency, you should contact CIPCOH to get connected with the champion in your state. They can help train faculty or find local dental colleagues to teach your students and residents. Whether it is learning how to do a proper oral exam for cancer screening or learning how to make referrals to dentists’ part of routine preventive care, the 100MMC champions can help.

If you wish to learn more about the 100MMC or connecting with an oral health education champion in your state, e-mail Diana Rinker at diana.rinker@umassmed.edu. You can learn more about CIPCOH by visiting its website: https://cipcoh.hsdm.harvard.edu/one-hundred-million-mouths-project.

References

  1. CDCP. Dental caries among adults and older adults. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/OHSR-2019-dental-carries-adults.html. Published June 2019. Accessed December 15, 2021.

  2. Mealey BL. Periodontal disease and diabetes: A two-way street. J Am Dent Assoc. 2006 Oct;137 Suppl:26S-31S. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2006.0404.

  3. Janket S, Baird AE, Chuang S, et al. Meta-analysis of periodontal disease and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2003 May;95(5):559-69. doi: 10.1067/moe.2003.107.

  4. CDCP. Disparities in oral health. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/oral_health_disparities/index.htm. Published February 2021. Accessed December 15, 2021.

  5. Institute of Medicine, et al. Advancing Oral Health in America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011. https://doi.org/10.17226/13086.


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