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Battle Against ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’ Continues In Appalachia 

In February 2009, Diane Sawyer interviewed Barbourville, Ky, dentist Edwin Smith, DDS, on ABC television’s “Good Morning America,” about the mobile dental practice he established to reach underserved children in eastern Kentucky and the region’s problem with “Mountain Dew Mouth”—rampant decay caused by heavy consumption of the sugary soda. Dimensions recently spoke with Smith to find out how the mobile dental practice, Kids First Dental Care (KFDC), has grown in the 2 years since the television interview, and what inroads have been made in reducing the effects of Mountain Dew Mouth. 

Shortly after Smith’s appearance on “Good Morning America,” PepsiCo, the manufacturer of Mountain Dew, agreed to help fund some of the education and restorative services KFDC provides to the many children affected by Mountain Dew Mouth. Smith told Dimensions that since the program originally aired, PepsiCo has directed enough funding to KFCD to broaden the practice’s footprint in the area and increase the number of underserved children KFCD is able to help. 

“After the ‘Good Morning America’ program Pepsi got involved by renting a second mobile unit for us and helping supplement a salary so I could hire another dentist to work in the additional unit,” Smith says. Each mobile dental unit carries a dentist and staff of four that includes dental hygienists and dental assistants who provide dental exams, X-rays, and perform prophylaxis, as well as fluoride and sealant applications. Smith estimates the second mobile unit enabled KFDC to provide care to at least 12,000 children throughout 20 school districts in 2010, doubling the number of children the practice reached in 2009. 

Smith tells Dimensions that although dental caries persists among many of the young patients KFCD serves, particularly in the form of Mountain Dew Mouth, there has been some improvement in prevalence rates of the condition. The “Good Morning America” segment helped open discussion about the potential harm caused by Mountain Dew and similar soft drinks, which has helped boost efforts to combat the condition. “When we return to locations where we’ve been providing service for a couple years, there’s a noticeable difference in those kids’ [oral health]. I also see a lot more of them in regular treatment. I feel like we’re making a pretty significant impact and that feels good,” Smith notes. 

For now, Smith intends to focus KFCD’s efforts on preventive care but he also plans to establish a mobile unit dedicated to restorative treatment. His goal is to provide two-pronged treatment that delivers preventive care, followed by a separate visit for restorative services. Though KFCD currently provides limited restorative services, Smith believes the mobile units provide the greatest benefit by focusing on providing diagnoses, education, and sealants. 

HPV-related Oral Cancer Patients Face Better Survival Rates Than Other Oral Cancer Patients

Patients diagnosed with oral cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) have significantly better survival rates than patients whose oral cancers are caused by sources other than HPV. A researcher at the University of Sydney Medical School, Sydney, Australia, revealed in a recent study of 198 oral cancer patients that those who had HPV-positive cancer exhibited four times better survival rates after 2 years than patients who were HPV-negative. The study also indicated that the recurrence of cancer at the primary site was three times less likely in cases where the cause of patients’ oral cancer was associated with HPV. The study connected a patient’s HPV status as the strongest indicator of survival of oropharyngeal cancer and of whether the disease would return. 


Unsupervised Practice May Be Voted Out for Georgia Dental Hygienists 

A measure proposed by the Georgia Board of Dentistry seeks to restrict dental hygienists in public health settings from unsupervised practice, thus requiring them to work under the indirect supervision of a dentist. The proposed rule change reportedly was issued for “safety” reasons and the protection of dental patients at facilities overseen by the Georgia Department of Community Health, county boards of health, and Department of Corrections. The proposed restriction met with resistance from Susan DeSanti, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning, who suggests the measure is likely to result in limited access to care for poor children and other vulnerable populations. 

“Restricting dental hygienists from performing services that they currently provide without either direct or indirect supervision in covered public health settings will likely raise the cost of these services and ultimately result in fewer persons receiving them,” DeSanti wrote in a letter to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division. DeSanti added that her office was unaware of evidence of past or future harm from current practice rules that guide dental hygienists, and urged the board to reject the proposed amendments. 

Allied Providers May Increase Dental Practice Profits

Adding new types of providers to dental offices can expand the profitability of a practice while providing broader access to oral health care for many underserved individuals, according to the findings of a report from the Pew Center on the State titled, “It Takes A Team: How New Dental Providers Can Benefit Patients and Practices.” The traditional working relationship between dental hygienists and dentists suggests new providers such as dental therapists and hygienist-therapists—designated “allied providers” by the report—could integrate in a similar fashion. The report outlines how allied providers might take on many of the preventive and restorative services within a dental practice, thus allowing dentists to devote more time to procedures that generate higher billing. To read the report and find related information, log on to 


Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Welcomes New Addition to Editorial Advisory Board 

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene is pleased to announce the addition of Timothy J. Hempton, DDS, to the journal’s Editorial Advisory Board. Hempton is an associate clinical professor and assistant director of Postdoctoral Periodontology at Tufts University in Boston. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and also maintains a private practice limited to periodontology and implantology in Dedham, Mass. Hempton received the Clinician of the Year award during the Presidential Awards Ceremony and Reception at the Yankee Dental Congress in January. He is also the 2005 recipient of the American Academy of Periodontology Teaching and Mentoring award at Tufts University. A frequent contributor to Dimensions, he has written and lectured extensively on periodontology and implantology. 

Child’s Death Sparks Emergency Preparedness Awareness

An 8-year-old girl’s death in 2007 due to complications of dental sedation inspired the creation of a charitable foundation dedicated to increasing awareness of medical emergency preparedness in dental offices. Raven Maria Blanco Foundation Inc was formed by Mario Blanco, the father of Raven Maria, who stopped breathing while under conscious sedation during dental treatment. Among the causes of the young girl’s death was lack of proficiency in handling emergencies and complications, now a central issue addressed by the foundation. The charity has laid out a 5-year plan to place 5,000 automatic external defibrillators in dental facilities nationwide that offer free and discounted services, as well as in parks and schools. The foundation also hopes to award grants to improve oral health care access for underserved children. 


Promote the Fun of National Children’s Dental Health Month 

The American Dental Association (ADA) is supporting National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) with a variety of materials designed to help children develop good habits and raise awareness about the importance of oral health. A selection of free materials and materials for purchase are available to help with oral health presentations and classroom ideas, in cluding the 2011 NCDHM Campaign. The McGrinn Twins are featured in stories and posters that promote general oral health messages to preteens and teenagers. A program planning guide that includes activities for children and planning tips, as well as posters for billboards, offices, and classrooms, are available in English and Spanish. Materials to help publicize NCDHM programs, including tips for creating press releases and newspaper articles, can also be downloaded. View the complete collection at: 

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. February 2011; 9(2): 16.

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