The Missing Link

April 21, 2015

When you think about healthy people, what comes to mind? Most people might respond a person who is not sick or does not have a disease and has healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising, eating correctly, not overweight or not smoking or drinking. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. That’s a good definition, but does it bring oral health to your mind?

Once mentioned, people would agree that oral health should be added to description above. But generally, when we think about health, oral health is often forgotten as an integral link. Oral health does not get the recognition it deserves as a critical part of overall health.  Extensive research has shown that oral health is very important to well-being. It can affect long-term physical health (such as heart disease) as well as the lifetime achievement of an individual. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) (http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/ ) research shows that in addition to physical health problems, a poor facial appearance and embarrassment about teeth can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including being bullied, dating, marriage, jobs, and social and community interactions.

CT views oral health as important!  CT has many professional groups that have focused on oral health issues, ranging from access to funding for care and legislative action that has brought improvements to oral health policy, particularly in the area of children’s oral health. CT provides dental coverage to all children who receive HUSKY. CT is one of 16 states that offer extensive oral health benefits to adults on Medicaid. CT has a strong, safe water fluoridation program which has been demonstrated to reduce tooth decay. (These statements are true as of 03/01/2015)

But from time to time, legislative proposals or actions may threaten the gains to oral health that have been made in CT. This is currently happening in CT. When this happens, voices are needed to let legislators know that CT residents want to keep the gains that promote oral health for its residents. Your voice can help maintain access to care and services! 

CT residents are also needed to help promote new legislation as it is developed. The many professional groups involved with oral health care issues will continue to work to put forth legislation that will impact access to care and other issues related to oral health. For example, Medicare recipients receive no dental benefits and must pay out of pocket. That can mean many seniors on fixed incomes have to choose between oral health care and basic necessities. Your voice can help pass new legislation by reaching out on a national level. 

Quinnipiack Valley Health District (QVHD) is building a coalition of citizens (Coalition of Oral Health Advocates-COHA) who recognize the importance of oral health as an integral part of overall health. Current access and services are often maintained or new legislation is brought to the table for consideration as a result of just a few interested and concerned residents speaking up and contacting their legislators. Your voice as a CT citizen has great power and can go a long way! It can greatly impact saving a service, creating a new service or whether a bill will even make it to be heard! Will you consider signing on as a QVHD oral health advocate? You will be helping to promote oral health for all CT residents that could lead to helping many achieve their full potential.

If you view oral health as an integral part of overall health, please consider becoming part of the QVHD COHA. All it requires from you is that you provide QVHD with your contact information. Once QVHD has your contact information, we will then keep you updated about legislation and other oral health issues as they arise. QVHD will provide you with the facts about the issue/legislation or action that will impact oral health as well as the list of legislators for your district and/or state, depending on if it is local or national. Please note: You will be the one to choose what you want to support based on the information QVHD will provide to you. Your decision to take action will be known only to you. You will not have to report to us what you chose to support, although we would like to know when you do chose to support a specific issue/legislation. There are many methods that can be used to support oral health initiatives. You can call, write, or email your legislators. You might also be invited to sign on to a letter/testimony that QVHD develops.

To become part of the QVHD COHA or to receive information on oral health, please contact Debbie Culligan, Quinnipiack Valley Health District by phone (203) 248-4528 or by email, dculligan@qvhd.org Once you are part of the QVHD COHA, you will receive information on how to advocate for change.