Dose of Prevention
Have you heard the saying, “You don't have to brush your teeth — just the ones you want to keep?” It turns out that a healthy mouth means more than just having good teeth. In fact, it is far more critical to overall well-being than generally believed.
The College of Nursing, the Dental Residency Program and the Center for Development and Disability at The University of New Mexico are working together to integrate oral health into the care of pregnant women and newborns. This is made possible through grant funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
Christine Cogil, DNP, RN, an assistant professor, primary care oral health expert and lead trainer, and Barbara Overman, PhD, CNM, associate professor and project director manager on the grant, have been working with the Navajo Department of Health to train all of the community health representatives on the Navajo Nation.
They have traveled to Crownpoint, Gallup and Farmington, N.M., as well as Window Rock, Flagstaff and Chinle, Ariz., working with health representatives who provide education, services and advocacy in the home.
“Preventive dental health is low cost, easy and within people’s control – and it has a real impact on family health,” Overman says. “I enjoy the energy and engagement of first-line health workers who are reaching people and making change for the better.”
Medical and nursing professionals typically are taught very little about dental oral health, even though research has shown that gum and tooth infections can have very serious health consequences.
Some of the more vulnerable populations for potential problems are pregnant women and their unborn children. Cavities and gum disease can seriously affect the health of pregnant mothers, causing complications they can pass along to their babies that could potentially last throughout childhood.
“Simple preventive measures can make a significant impact on the outcome of pregnancy,” Cogil says. “These create positive health outcomes for infants and children.”