A dentist and informatics expert from Indiana is playing a key role in the future of oral health in the United States. Thankam Thyvalikakath, D.M.D., MDS, Ph.D., from Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Dentistry gave her input on the 2020 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America.
Dr. Thyvalikakath was one of about 100 dental experts invited to participate in a listening session to form the basis of the new report. She focused on emerging technology that could be leveraged to improve oral health. Her expertise in informatics enabled her to give guidance on integrating dental health records with electronic health records (EHR) and leveraging the EHR data to improve oral health as well as overall wellbeing.
“Oral health plays a major role in our overall health. Combining dental records with general electronic health records gives both clinicians and dental providers the ability to address the whole person and coordinate care,” said Dr. Thyvalikakath. “If we can integrate oral health into healthcare, we can increase access to treatment and reduce disparities.”
Oral health touches every aspect of people’s lives but is frequently taken for granted. The American Dental Association reports that cavities remain the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood, and 100 million Americans don’t see a dentist each year, even though regular examinations and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental disease.
The first and only Surgeon General report on oral health came in 2000. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., says over the last two decades, oral health has improved for many Americans, but not for all. In fact, he says working age adults have seen no improvements in the last 10 years, and it’s costing individuals, businesses, communities and even national security. More than 50% of Army recruits cannot be deployed because of their dental issues.
The purpose of the new report is to explore key issues currently affecting oral health, identify challenges and opportunities that have emerged since the first report, create a vision for the future and call upon all Americans to take action.
In a webinar on January 10, 2019, the Surgeon General updated the public on the status of the report and requested public input.