The American Dental Association recently touted its consumer website, www.MouthHealthy.org. A quiz was readily available for consumers to test their "dental IQ." I answered nine out of 10 correctly, missing a question regarding the danger of refined sugar in comparison to natural sugar. What can I say? I have edited too many articles about soft drinks lately.
Afterwards, the website informed me: "Wow! Great job! Looks like someone already is living Mouth Healthy. Keep up the good work!"
I printed out that report card and framed it. However, I inserted bullet-proof glass into the frame. I knew that as soon as I showed up for my next appointment, my hygienist would attempt to shoot it.
Here are two facts, and this is no quiz:
• Everyone has a website these days, so it's no huge surprise that the country's leading dental association would target consumers with one.
• I have limited patience in navigating through a site where the item I'm looking for doesn't leap off the screen at me.
The last point is important because the actual headline of the press release regarding www.mouthhealthy.org was: "Americans Score a D on National Oral Health Quiz."
CNN recently ran a series of articles on its website about how Americans are not the best at anything anymore. Often, though, Americans were somewhere near the top in a particular area such as health care or education, but not quite numero uno. A week later, dentists jumped on the bandwagon, basically to say we're flunking oral health.
So I spent a few minutes looking for a "report" about our D grade. I didn't see it, except for the aforementioned quiz itself. For the record, what the ADA said in its announcement was, "On average, Americans scored a 'D' on a series of true or false questions ranging from how often to brush and what age should a child first visit a dentist to what causes cavities."
The quiz most certainly did not ask me if I was an American.
So phooey on that report card.
Another news report announced that 78% of dental hygienists want to "actively manage patients with systemic disease." Naturally, I was hoping that 100% of dental hygienists want to manage preventive dental health of all patients, regardless if they have a chronic disease or not. As far as I know, most hygienists are delighted to assist in the oral health care of pregnant women (another one of those systemic things), at least until cable TV scares the hygienists away with a reality show called Preggerszillas.
The report was referring to a study of North Carolina dental hygienists. Researchers wanted to examine the hygienists' "knowledge of the oral-systemic connection." It appears that North Carolina hygienists earned a passing grade (at least B's and C's) on the quiz. So the next time you encounter a North Carolina hygienist, give him or her a hug.
Just don't whisper in her ear, "My state would have scored an A."
Thankfully, as they always do, the North Carolina hygienists expressed a thirst for knowledge regarding the relationship between periodontal disease and specific diseases and pregnancy. The study's abstract, though, stated, "The majority felt that dental hygienists should be trained to identify risk factors for oral-systemic disease and to actively manage patients with systemic disease."
I inserted the italics in the preceding sentence, not the study's authors. I would have been more comfortable if they had just said, "... to actively manage the periodontal disease in patients with systemic disease." You kind of see why, right? Too many people already perceive dental hygienists as wanting to "do it all" without going to dental school (and, in this case, medical school). Nothing would isolate dental hygiene as a profession more than any kind of an offbeat interpretation of what managing patients with systemic disease means.
I await my report card on this Editor's Note.