Dr. Gary Inman of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, president-elect of the AAO, gave the orthodontic specialty a voice in a major national discussion of oral health in a public health context. Dr. Inman was among about 150 dentists, dental specialists, physicians and public health experts participating in the Surgeon General’s Listening Session on Oral Health, November 26-27 in Washington, D.C.

The Surgeon General of the United States, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, initiated the listening session. Its purpose was to solicit input for an updated version of a report published in 2000, Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. The original report was the first of its kind.

Dr. Adams and other officials welcomed participants in the meeting.  Acting Division Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr. Casey Hannan, was the master of ceremonies.

“We all listened to a review presentation on the 2000 report by Dr. Caswell Evans of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, and a presentation on oral health and disease by Dr. Gina Thornton-Evans of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Dr. Inman. “Of course, a lot has changed in the nearly 20 years since the original report was published. The report carried the message that good oral health is essential to good overall health and well-being, but now we have much more advanced research on the relationships between oral health and heart conditions, diabetes, etc. The 2000 Report also recognized the effects of tobacco on oral health and while that is still a problem today, there has been significant improvement due to the decline in tobacco use.”

Participants in the Surgeon General’s Listening Session also attended topical presentations of their choice and shared information and concerns during break-out discussion sessions that were divided according to special interests and areas of expertise of participants. The many additional topics discussed included:

● The use of mouth guards for all contact sports;
● Soda consumption along with sugar and corn syrup and their effect on oral and general health (tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, heart disease);
● How the rate of dental caries has been impacted now that 70 percent of public water supplies in the United States are fluoridated;
● Access to dental care;
● Substance abuse/addiction (alcohol, opioids , methamphetamines);
● Autism;
● Social media;
● Cyber bullying;
● Suicide and depression.

“Among the many facts shared that I found interesting is that oral health problems are among the top reasons that our military services turn people away,” said Dr. Inman.

The AAO Can Be a Key Resource on Oral Health Issues

Dr. Inman was a member of a break-out group that focused on issues pertaining to adolescents age 12-18. His fellow group members included representatives of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, The Children’s Oral Health Institute, the University of Florida and University of Maryland schools of dentistry and various public health agencies.

“In addition to high-profile areas of concern for teens such as sugar consumption, obesity and smoking, we discussed other issues such as sleep apnea,” said Dr. Inman. “Several members of my group were intrigued when I discussed the AAO’s upcoming Winter Conference on sleep apnea, and indicated they might try to attend.”

Another topic of concern to participants in the break-out session was the HPV virus and getting out the word to parents about the now-available vaccines.

“My key message as I interacted with other participants throughout the meeting was that the AAO can be a key resource for reaching families with any type of information, given that we are treating 6.5 million patients – about 75 percent of whom are teens,” said Dr. Inman. “I was given many opportunities to share information and found that it was very well-received.

“It will be interesting to see the updated report on oral health that is to be published in 2020,” added Dr. Inman. “The original 2000 Surgeon General Report on Oral Health was 325 pages. I have no doubt that the 2020 Report will be longer and more comprehensive.”