Global Health Nexus, Millennium Issue

Message from the Dean

Michael C. Alfano, DMD, PhD
New York University College of Dentistry

"Ask Your Dentist." As the cover photo suggests, this phrase is at the heart of a strategy to shape positive change in dental health care. New York University College of Dentistry NYU Dentistry introduced the phrase last spring as part of a three-day, free oral cancer screening program, which launched IMPACT, the College's Initiative to Mobilize Patient Advocacy, Concern, and Treatment. The story of the inception, progress, and results of that program ("An Amazing Week in the Life of NYU College of Dentistry") is featured in this issue.

The "Ask Your Dentist" strategy seeks to enhance dentistry's relationship with the public, thereby increasing the flow of patients into dental offices, and to influence the way dentistry is practiced by educating consumers to expect and demand specific health care procedures. For example, the free screenings were aimed at educating consumers about the deadliness of oral cancer and at motivating them to ask their dentists how to avoid becoming an oral cancer statistic. The phrase "Ask Your Dentist" appeared in all advertisements and proved to be so powerful a call to action that NYU Dentistry has adopted "Ask Your Dentist" as the IMPACT theme. Such is the power of this theme that many dentists in the New York-New Jersey region are now planning to offer oral cancer screenings in their offices.

Next on the IMPACT agenda is a campaign to obliterate tooth decay in children by marketing to parents the concept that preventive dental techniques are so good that they may never have to pay for another filling. The campaign is based on an NYU Dentistry program that promises parents that if kids get cavities after enrolling in a regimen of preventive treatment and good home care, NYU Dentistry will restore the teeth free of charge. All advertisements for the campaign will urge parents to "Ask Your Dentist" how to prevent kids from getting cavities, once and for all. An article in this issue by Dr. Linda R. Rosenberg ("Ask Your Dentist") describes the NYU Dentistry program.

Going forward, IMPACT will conduct an antismoking campaign targeting preteens, a campaign to alert the public to the important links between oral health and systemic disease, and a campaign to reduce premature births associated with periodontal disease. All of these initiatives will be built around the "Ask Your Dentist" theme.

Another strategy designed to encourage dialogue between consumers and their dentists will be unveiled this spring when NYU Dentistry presents a free program for the community -- a sort of mini-dental school -- from the consumer's perspective. The program will feature an enlightening look at modern dentistry through topics including the links between periodontal disease and heart disease, how a "smile lift" can rejuvenate facial appearance, and why certain foods taste the way they do.

"Ask Your Dentist" - A Resource for the Profession

An added goal of the "Ask Your Dentist" strategy is to enhance the relationship between NYU Dentistry and its alumni. Accordingly, we take the theme "Ask Your Dentist" a step further in this issue by introducing two new resources. One is an interactive approach to "Ask Your Dentist," which enables you to get answers to your questions regarding professional ethics from Milton Palat, D.D.S., J.D. You will recall Dr. Palat as a contributor to the inaugural issue of Global Health NEXUS, in which he discussed the ethical impact on society of dentists who fail to perform an oral cancer exam. Selected questions and answers will appear in future issues of the magazine. The other is a column entitled "Practicing for Life,"sm in which we ask different alumni in each issue to share their views on fostering development of those aspects of dentistry that impact general health. We are delighted that Dr. Alan Queen, editor of the Bulletin of the Queens County Dental Society and an NYU Dentistry alumnus, has authored our first "Practicing for Life"sm column in this issue. These are just a few of the innovations that you will find featured in this issue of Global Health NEXUS.

The mail we received in response to our first issue was wonderful. Please continue to send in your comments. We hope that you find this issue of Global Health NEXUS one more way to connect with NYU Dentistry.

Do you need an answer to a question involving professional ehtics? You can "Ask Your Dentist" by contacting NYU Dentistry's ethicist, Dr. Milton Palat.