April showers bring May flowers: May a month of much more

May 1, 2012
The month of May is, perhaps, most famous for flowers courtesy of the April showers.

The month of May is, perhaps, most famous for flowers courtesy of the April showers. It is also the month chosen to shed light on a number of important issues and events. In addition to health topics ranging from stroke awareness to better sleep and women’s health, May is also dedicated to bringing attention to car care, salad, and barbeques.

As health-care providers, our goal for wellness must extend outside the oral cavity. Providing information and educating patients on health issues goes hand in hand with providing preventive services. National Stroke Awareness Month provides a good opportunity to help patients recognize the signs of stroke and know what actions can help decrease damage. You can download a number of educational items at http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=aware_eKit. In addition to a fact sheet and wall poster that help people recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, you can download a wallet card that teaches you how to act fast when it comes to a stroke. I believe this card should be in every health-care provider’s wallet, purse, or pocket.

May is also a month that focuses on arthritis causes, treatments, research, and awareness. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website has more information than one can absorb in a single visit. On their site at http://www.niams.nih.gov/ you will learn about the types of arthritis, the common symptoms, and treatment options. On the health information page you can follow the link to “order a NIAMS publication” and access free booklets and publications on arthritis related subjects. Take-home materials placed in the waiting room or operatory are a good way to get critical health information into the hands of patients who need it.

The Arthritis Foundation is the largest not-for-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world. The foundation has a page dedicated to activities and fund-raising for National Arthritis Awareness Month at http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-awareness-month.php. Here you can obtain a publication on the relationship between arthritis and diabetes, get a free walking guide, and download health tips related to rheumatoid arthritis. One can also sign up for the Walk for Arthritis or make a tribute donation with the Give Hope Through Heroes program.

At least three studies revealed the presence of oral bacteria DNA in synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis patients, suggesting that our role in educating about the effects of inflammation should include information on systemic inflammatory conditions. These studies are available on PubMed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21523217, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19929953, and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17207381. By typing “oral bacteria synovial fluid” in the PubMed search box, you will find more studies worth reading.

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has deemed May National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. You can find the planned observances for the month and ways to incorporate more physical activity in everyday life at http://fitness.gov/npfsm/.

Also during May, pay a visit to http://home.lifegoesstrong.com/article/celebrate-national-salad-month-easy-healthy-delicious-salads and discover several delicious ways to observe National Salad Month. Good nutrition and physical activity have proven effective in reducing inflammation — a vital step in achieving health.

It is estimated that only 30% of Americans get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. To offer suggestions and provide education on improving these statistics, the Better Sleep Council and International Sleep Products Association have teamed up with a public awareness campaign aimed at stopping the epidemic of sleep deprivation. It is ironic that I searched http://www.prweb.com/releases/April2011/stopzombieitisbsc/prweb5255044.htm at 3 a.m. during one of my own sleepless nights. Their campaign will not end after May, but then again, neither will insomnia.

My favorite May observation is National Vinegar Month. It is, hands down, the best idea since balsamic became available in fruit flavors. Even when my cupboards are bare of food, I have no less than six bottles of various vinegars in my pantry. Spend some time at http://versatilevinegar.org/ to discover recipes, research, and cleaning tips involving vinegar in all of its varieties. The Uses & Tips and FAQ sections are informative, but the Vinegar Lore area is my favorite. While it’s not an aid in reducing inflammation, and it’s more acidic than we like for tooth structures, vinegar is still a versatile and useful product. Plus, working National Vinegar Month into a conversation introduces a great opportunity for education on oral pH and methods for maintaining a neutral oral environment.

The population is tired of the brush and floss speech. Using other events and topics to communicate the importance of good oral health can only be a win-win. We as dental hygienists come across as more interesting, and if we weave it in just right, our patients take home important health education — including that brush and floss line.

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.

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