This week we hear a selection from an interview with Dr. John Dane, the state dental director, and Gary Harbison, the Director of the Missouri Oral Health Coalition. They were guests on KBIA’s Intersection – you can hear that longer interview here.
They spoke about some of the ways that oral health is impacting Missourians and about the relationship between physical and oral health.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Dr. John Dane: Oral cancer – oropharyngeal cancer, let's be specific about that, the HPV problems that have been increasing across the United States. We've had a 40% increase in oral cancer. Most of that has been due to the HPV virus.
Rebecca Smith: And this is the human papillomavirus we usually associate more with sexual contact?
Dr. Dane: With cervical cancer. Right.
What we're finding is that it's not necessarily in the younger population, as it is in an older population. So, you're going to begin to hear education and training and emphasis in dental offices recommending that teenagers get the HPV virus vaccine.
I don't think you're going to find dentists doing the vaccines in their office, but we're going to be – you're going to be seeing promotions on that.
Rebecca: Interesting. And oral cancer – I'm not sure off the top of my head, what are the prognosis on oral cancers?
Dr. Dane: Well, two things happen with oral cancer is that, number one, it's usually found later than earlier because most people don't recognize the symptoms, don't go to their dentist to have it checked out, and so, consequently, you may have a lesion that's developed on the base of the tongue.
It's obviously a difficult area to do surgery on. A difficult area to get to.
Rebecca: So, what can individuals who are listening do?
Dr. Dane: You can when you go to the dentist and ask them if they're checking you to see if you have oral cancer? And then if you got kids – get them vaccinated.
Gary Harbison: From my perspective, it seems like every week another study comes out that shows the connection to oral health and some physical health condition.
The strongest thing I could say about that it's absolutely a truth that you cannot be completely physically healthy unless you also have good oral health. It's very easy if you have basic good oral health, and you don't have problems, to have the impression that it is all about kind of cosmetics – having nice white, shiny, straight teeth.
And that is an aspect of dental care, but the important part is really the public health issue. Communities that have poor oral health, people there are having trouble going to school and learning. They're having trouble getting jobs, keeping jobs. They're having trouble paying for dental care.
We need to get past that. Get it in our heads that if you want to be healthy, you have to have good oral health care.