Editor’s Note: This series of blog posts highlights community programs that partner with the UVM Medical Center to help people in our community.
In the past, health care providers thought the health of our teeth was not related to the health of our bodies. Today, we know that a healthy smile is one sign of overall good health.
Healthy teeth and gums can help protect you from heart disease and diabetes. If you are a pregnant, healthy teeth and gums may help prevent you from having a baby with a low birth weight.
Daily brushing and flossing are steps we can all take to keep our teeth and gums healthy. It’s also important to see a dentist regularly. Unfortunately, not everyone sees a dentist as often as they should. That’s where people like Pari Motia come in. Pari is a public health dental hygienist.
What is a Public Health Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists clean your teeth and show you how to brush and floss properly. They work in a dental office with one person at a time to improve oral health. Public health dental hygienists are different. They work with a whole population, many at a time, to improve oral health. Instead of having a group of patients who come to see them, their patients are the entire community.
Meet Pari Motia
Pari Motia is the Public Health Dental Hygienist for Chittenden County. While she isn’t Spiderman, she is a superhero. Her main focus is a group of people who often lack access to oral health: low-income pregnant women and young children.
This group may have a hard time getting to a dentist. They may have trouble finding a dentist – and even if they find one, they may have trouble getting to appointments. Here is where Pari’s superhero skills come in handy.
Pari is able to meet with them when they come to their WIC appointment (WIC is the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children) at the Health Department. She can find out if a person is at risk for oral health problems, connect them with a dentist, work with them to adopt good brushing and flossing habits, and can even apply fluoride varnish to help protect their teeth. A visit with Pari doesn’t replace a visit with the dentist, but it helps families get on the right track.
Pari’s superhero skills don’t stop there. She works with many community groups to help them carry the message about the importance of healthy teeth and gums by:
- Training doctors to screen for oral health risk and apply fluoride varnish
- Supporting dental hygienists who work in local schools
- Working with social service organizations to help them stay up-to-date on the latest information about oral health
To learn more about oral health and find resources in your community, please visit http://healthvermont.gov/family/dental/services.aspx.
Heather Danis is District Director for the Burlington District Office at the Vermont Department of Health.