This article originally appeared in the August 2015 edition of PA Professional magazine.
Oral health matters. Wouldn’t you agree? At my family practice, we talk to parents about children’s teeth, brushing them and taking them to see a dentist when they are toddlers. In my small rural community, we’re lucky to have a pediatric dentist who works in the local health department and sees Medicaid patients, and we are better able to serve peds patients with dental problems. But we see a lot of little ones with dental caries due to the sugars in baby formula. Truly, I do a lot of patient education so parents have a better understanding of how to prevent these problems before they start, or at least from worsening.
Whatever our specialty, as PAs we need to talk to our patients—children and adults—about good oral health because it’s about more than just teeth. We’re talking about nutrition, nidus for infection in other parts of the body and behaviors that may lead to dental disease. All of the above affect a patient’s overall health.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be participating in the PA Leadership Initiative in Oral Health’s 6th Annual PA Oral Health Summit, Aug. 13–15, in Aspen, Colo. The Initiative leads an effort that brings together leaders from all four national PA organizations, and groups like PAs for Oral Health, to discuss how to infuse oral health into PA practice.
Thanks to the Initiative—and the early work of PA programs—the PA profession is a nationally recognized leader in incorporating dental disease prevention into everyday practice.PAs have embraced AAPA-endorsed CME, like the Smiles for Life National Oral Health Curriculum, and PA students, especially, are off and running with it.
I’m heartened by the number of PA students around the nation who are engaged in the movement to incorporate oral health into PA practice. They’re playing a vital role in the eradication of dental disease with service projects that include patient education, screenings and referrals for pediatric and adult patients with oral disease. We can learn from their example.
AAPA strives to keep PAs at the forefront of key health issues in America today, whether that’s through CME or activities at AAPA Conference. Oral health is a vital component of preventive medicine. Join us and take the time to address oral health with your patients—whatever your specialty.
Jeffrey A. Katz, PA-C, DFAAPA, is AAPA president and chair of the board.