Dentists have obligation to inform patients on vaccines, US assistant surgeon general says


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As opioid addiction, vaping and oral cancers rise, oral health is of the utmost importance, Timothy Ricks, DDS, chief dental officer of the U.S. Public Health Service and U.S. assistant surgeon general, told Tennessee dental students, according to The Daily Memphian

Dr. Ricks spent Oct. 7-8 visiting Knoxville-based University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry, the U.S.'s third-oldest public college of dentistry. More than 70 percent of Tennessee dentists and about half of Arkansas dentists attended the school.

The opioid crisis, methamphetamine abuse and vaping all have profoundly affected oral health, Dr. Ricks told students, along with an aging population and a rising isolated, poor rural population. Since 2000, lower income individuals' overall oral health has not improved, despite increased Medicaid funding.

About 23 million people see a dentist, but do not see a primary care physician, Dr. Ricks said, making dentists the only contact for medical issues. Dr. Ricks told the dental students that, for the first time ever, it is their responsibility to talk to patients about immunizations.

The 2020 Surgeon General's report will include oral health on its own and as a byproduct of substance misuse, economic prosperity and vaccinations.

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