Several A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) students had the opportunity to present their research last week during ATSU-ASDOH’s Research Week. Each day, selected students presented research on various topics related to dentistry, patient care, and dental student life.
The week began with a presentation, “The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Oral Health; Healthy People 2030 Oral Health Objectives,” from Rear Adm. Timothy L. Ricks, DMD, MPH, FICD. Dr. Ricks currently serves as the 20th chief dental officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, as well as assistant surgeon general.
Dr. Ricks discussed various disparities in oral health and some of the factors that affect access to dental care. He reviewed the second-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health and the Healthy People 2030 oral health objectives. Dr. Ricks also discussed how COVID-19 has impacted dental care in the U.S.
“Many of our most vulnerable children are not getting the dental care that they need to during this pandemic,” Dr. Ricks said. “We do know that the majority of Americans do feel like it is safe to go back to the dentist. With 60% of them ready to go, 23% had already been back, and I’m sure it’s improving even more.”
While the effects of COVID-19 may have temporarily reduced the number of patients visiting the dentist, there have been some innovative outcomes for the dentistry field.
“There are some opportunities that COVID-19 has presented to us, teledentistry being one of those opportunities. It has opened our eyes that there may be some possible things that we use teledentistry for in the future. There have also been opportunities to further integrate oral health into primary care,” Dr. Ricks said.
Dr. Ricks discussed the benefit of dentists and dental students being prepared to offer health education to their patients.
“One important stat that I want to throw out to you is that each year in the U.S., 31.1 million Americans see a dentist but not a physician. And of those, 700,000 are under the age of 4. So, clearly, dentists have an opportunity to educate patients, review their medical history, and making sure parents of young children are keeping them on track for their childhood immunizations.”
Healthy People is a set of national health priorities set each decade. Healthy People 2030 includes 355 measurable objectives to improve health and well-being over the next decade.
“It began when Julius Richmond, MD, surgeon general at the time, issued a report of health promotion and disease prevention, which established these national objectives,” Dr. Ricks said. “These are the goals. Basically, we want to continue to address health disparities, including oral health disparities, create an environment where people can get healthy, and make sure we engage people through all walks of life to take action to improve health.”
Click here to review the full presentation.