ASDA members can help bring healthier and happier smiles to children in the community by volunteering with Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures (BSBF) Dental Van program. BSBF invites members to volunteer by improving a smile, child by child, while having a rewarding hands-on community experience.
This year, ASDA continued the growth of the National Outreach Initiative, which was established in 2017 and brings attention to the oral health needs of underserved populations. The special populations highlighted this year included geriatric individuals, displaced populations and veterans.
In the operatory where I work hangs a sign that reads “Welcome Home.” It hangs among a wall of photos — most of them black and white — of men and women dressed in uniform (some more casually), standing on warships or next to aircrafts. I work as a general dentist at the outpatient Veterans Affairs (VA) dental clinic in Chico, California. Many of my patients like to add their photos from their time of service to our decorated wall. For them, sharing photos is their way of sharing their stories.
This past fall, our Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD) ASDA chapter partnered with our local Ronald McDonald House to serve families who are displaced while their seriously ill or injured child receives care at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. We helped provide home-cooked meals for families on a monthly basis, interacting with them and spreading information about our resources at IUSD, which is located across the street. These dinners also served as a time for the family members to share their child’s story and connect with other parents who may be going through similar experiences.
“I think I’m just going to tie my tooth to a string and slam the door,” said one of my first patients, a kind and hilarious 83-year-old woman. We got an oral surgery consultation that cleared her extraction after considering her multiple comorbidities, and it was then I realized the unique challenges geriatric patients face in obtaining dental care.
It is estimated that by 2030, 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be 65 years or older. About five percent of the aging population is edentulous, and this number is expected to dwindle as more older adults are retaining their natural teeth. This group may be placed into one of three broad categories: (1) functionally independent older adults; (2) frail older adults; (3) functionally dependent older adults, according to an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Outreach has always been a pillar of organized dentistry. Because of this, in 2017, the Council on Professional Issues spearheaded the launch of ASDA’s National Outreach Initiative (NOI). This year, the council plans to maintain the momentum generated by NOI’s inaugural year, while continuing to promote various events and opportunities for involvement throughout 2018 and 2019.