Living Well — Oral Health

Living Well – Oral Health is a television series designed to provide older adults with up-to-date information on healthy aging and how to manage their chronic conditions. The program features local health, medical, and dental professionals in a talk show/interview format, hosted by Olypmic Area Agency on Aging’s (O3A) Kathy Jones. Kathy’s featured guest on Living Well-Oral Health is Cyndi Newman, RDS, BSDH, MSCH, a practicing dental hygienist with 38 years of experience. This 30-minute public television program is aired in Grays Harbor County and Olympia, by North Beach TV. The program airs for one month and then it is re-broadcast over a 12-month period on a 24-hour rotating schedule.

Submitted by: Barbie Rasmussen, Director, Planning & Program Management, Olympic Area Agency on Aging

Project Goal(s)
The goals for this activity were to provide:

  1. Information on oral health and its link to physical health and well-being.
  2. Information on how to prevent oral disease and maintain good oral health, particularly if they have difficulty accessing affordable dental care.

Outreach to older adults can be challenging in the O3A region—the service area is rural, with people living in relatively small communities dispersed over the rugged mountainous terrain of the Olympic Peninsula.  To meet this challenge, O3A relies on television, radio, and newspaper media outreach  to promote O3A Information & Assistance and local experts in multiple disciplines—doctors, lawyers, health professionals, dentists—who provide important and relevant information to the older adult viewing, listening, and reading audience.   The O3A Living Well television series is a partnership between O3A and North Beach TV.

The Living Well-Oral Health television program provides information on:

  • Why oral health is important to physical health
  • Challenges older adults may face accessing affordable dental health
  • Oral health issues which are common as we age, such as dry mouth, and remedies to try
  • How a chronic illness such as diabetes can impact oral health
  • How oral disease can exacerbate some chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease
  • How to prevent and manage oral disease
  • Signs and symptoms of oral cancer
  • Effects of smoking and chewing tobacco on oral health, and how they contribute to the development of oral cancers
  • Why people with dentures need annual dental exams
  • How older adults can prevent decay and acid erosion by avoiding or limiting sweet and carbonated beverages, foods high in acidity
  • Where to look for affordable oral health care if you don’t have dental insurance coverage
  • Shopping for toothpaste—what to look for (one with fluoride)
  •  The importance of good nutrition for oral health

The Living Well-Oral Health program features Cyndi S. Newman, RDH, BSDH, MSCH, a practicing Dental Hygienist and President of the Alliance of Dental Hygiene Practitioners.  Ms. Newman developed the Smiles for Life Senior Center Dental Program in 2006.  She is working with O3A to educate the community on the importance of good oral health and to increase dental access opportunities in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties.

Successes and Challenges
Instrumental to the success of this activity are the relationships between O3A and the local media outlets. In addition to the television program, O3A maximizes opportunities with radio, newspaper, internet, and social media programs, along with a great deal of word-of-mouth marketing. Without this strong outreach network and its partnerships, the program itself wouldn’t have been possible.

Lessons Learned
For replicability of this type of program in other areas, it is important to keep in mind that each community will have its own unique set of assets. We were fortunate to have on staff someone who is skilled in presenting information in a television format; we have also worked hard to develop the community partnerships with the TV station as well as the local experts featured in the healthy aging series. We were also fortunate to recruit a senior oral health professional from our own region, who is featured on the Oral Health program. Before embarking on similar initiates it is critical to consider if these needed assets are available within your organization or your community, as they are critical for success.

In determining the content to be covered in the television program, we relied on the Why Oral Health PowerPoint presentation from the Oral Health Toolkit.

The O3A Living Well-Oral Health television program, like all the Living Well television segments, is being aired throughout the year and is available for broadcast by other local television stations in other AAA service area. The program is also featured on the O3A website at Other AAAs are invited to create a link to the video from their website to share this valuable information with a broader audience.