Inside Dentistry
May 2007
Volume 3, Issue 5

Scenes From Chicago

Laura Sass

OHA Gala Sets Records

More than $170,000 was raised to support educational and service programs designed to improve oral health at Oral Health America’s Annual Gala Dinner and Auction, held during the Chicago Midwinter Meeting on February 22 (Figure 1).

“Eighteen years ago we began the gala on a hope and $30,000 from the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co,” says Robert Klaus, president and CEO of Oral Health America. “Today, that hope has produced dozens of new sponsors and pushed our net somewhere north of $170,000. Equally important, that hope translates directly into programs and services that will reach hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

This year’s gala, which was attended by more than 900 people, was the largest and most successful in the event’s 17-year history. Next year’s gala will be held Thursday, February 21, 2008.

“The OHA Gala is truly a story of hope,” says Klaus.

A New Kind of “Tooth Fairy”—National Children’s Oral Health Foundation

There are an estimated 4 to 5 million children with dental-related pain so severe that they have trouble eating, sleeping, and learning, according to Fern Ingber, president and CEO of the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF).

Barely a year old, the Foundation must contend with some frightening statistics:

? Dental disease is the most common untreated childhood illness, five times more common than asthma.
? An estimated 51 million school hours are missed nationally by children because of tooth decay and other dental problems.
? Eighty percent of tooth decay is found in 25% of children.
? Five percent of children have the greatest dental needs and account for 30% of Medicaid expenditures.

The oral health problems experienced by children can morph into even more serious overall health problems as they age, according to Ingber. Dental disease accounts for over 164 million work hours lost annually, making maintaining and holding a job difficult. Even more ominous, a direct correlation exists between untreated periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease, and pre-term birth.

“The mouth is clearly the gateway to the body,” says Ingber. “Oral health is clearly connected with overall systemic health. A child who is suffering with oral disease is going to have a terrible time in terms of their ability to thrive. It not only impacts their ability to eat, speak, and learn, but other things as well. This is not just about emergency care or restorative services.”

Preventing these kinds of problems starts with childhood dental care, says Ingber. “What we want to do is break this cycle of a revolving door where a tooth is filled, a tooth is pulled, and then a few months later a child is back in pain with yet another problem,” she explains.

One of the organizations that NCOHF supports is Tooth Fairy Island, which is an organization that teaches children and parents about oral health, sometimes going directly to elementary schools.

“The ToothFairy Island curriculum is an integrated curriculum that right now is geared towards elementary children,” says Ingber. “[It is] geared to change the behaviors of children and educate the parents.”

NCOHF provides the educational materials that are given out to the children and parents, including books, DVDs, and CDs. The ToothFairy Island initiative was prominently featured at the NCOHF’s reception during the Chicago Midwinter Meeting.

“The work of the foundation is so important and ultimately so impactful,” says Ingber. “We need a very high standard of comprehensive treatment for children. So it is that powerful combination of education and treatment services that will ultimately break this revolving-door cycle.”

Dental Museum Exhibits President’s Teeth, Queen’s Dental Kit

The only health-themed museum to be named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry (NMD, Baltimore, MD), held a Tarrson Reception (Figure 2) during the Chicago Midwinter Meeting on February 24 for its Pillars Campaign. The eight pillars at the NMD give the financial contribution campaign its name.

The museum, which opened its exhibit “Your Spitting Image: Saliva: A Remarkable Fluid” on March 2, launched the Pillars Campaign to educate the public about the importance of oral health, expand its comprehensive collection of dental artifacts, and to provide educational programs for children.

George Washington’s dentures are on display at the museum, along with many portraits, including one showing a scar on his cheek believed to have been caused by an abscessed tooth. The George Washington Gallery at the NMD also showcases letters between Washington and his dentist, Dr. John Greenwood.

The NMD includes exhibits on St. Apollonia, patron saint of dentists, an old Superman comic book featuring the Man of Steel with a toothache, human teeth in various stages of development, dental instruments used by Queen Victoria’s dentist, and The Tooth Jukebox, which features vintage dental product commercials ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s.

“Our mission is to inspire people to make healthy choices about oral health by creating and sharing learning opportunities that celebrate the heritage and future of dentistry, the achievements of dental professionals, and the importance of oral health in a healthy life,” according to the NMD brochure, A Decade of Excellence.

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