Back in 2001, when I was president of my local dental hygiene component, I received a flyer from one of the local hospitals announcing a diabetes fair. The theme was ‘Diabetes from Head to Toe’, so, I called and asked, “who’s covering the mouth?” Total silence followed by “no one has every contacted us about this before.” Fortunately, they welcomed us, and that led to an invitation to exhibit at the first Diabetes Expo held at Navy Pier in Chicago. Thus began a ten year plus relationship between the West Suburban Dental Hygienists’ Society and the American Diabetes Association.
To say the event was eye-opening would be an understatement. We met single and double amputees, people who were legally blind, and those just struggling with their diagnosis. What many of them had in common was that they had no idea that diabetes impacted their oral health. Many had not had a dental visit in years; and more importantly, their medical providers were not even recommending it.
What was even more shocking was the lack of knowledge that most medical professionals had in this area. One physician actually asked me why we there. He had no idea that diabetes increased the incidence and severity of periodontal disease.
According the American Diabetes Association, 25.6 million adults have diabetes. Nearly 11 million of them are age 65 or older. That’s a lot of people who need our help.
It’s time to take our message out into the community. Volunteer at a local health fair. Contact the diabetes association in your area and see what opportunities are available. People will be receptive to your message. I know the volunteers from West Suburban find the day very rewarding.