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    How dental professionals can be advocates

    Speaking up about important issues and meeting with legislators can have a major impact on your patients’ oral health.

    Advocacy is something dental professionals do every day. Hygienists discuss the importance of prevention to their patients in-depth. We go over methods, techniques, frequencies and research in order to persuade our patients to make healthy decisions. Dentists discuss recommended treatment at length, simplifying complex procedures into analogies of apples and helmets, helping patients understand and subsequently empowering them to make knowledgeable decisions for their own wellbeing. 

    CoverAs a team, we sometimes need to confront parents and have tough conversations about how a child reached his or her status, attempting to reveal the underlying dietary habit or educate specifics on how to move toward better choices. This is advocacy. We are influencing our patients’ health by speaking truthfully about subjects we know to be true. We are experts at this because we do it daily, but what does advocacy look like on a larger scale for us? If we begin looking at influencing oral health on a systemic level, meaning government and policies, those conversations may seem a little more intimidating. Advocating for systemic change was not part of the clinical curriculum, but it is a natural progression for oral health providers who care. 

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    Merriam-Webster defines advocacy as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” It can encompass all types of conversations with different groups about subjects that are of interest or important to you. Vocal support can range from voicemails and Twitter tags to handwritten letters or face-to-face meetings. 

    Families USA, a health care advocacy group, has a great resource for how to set up a meeting with your member of congress. They say, “Engaging face-to-face with government officials and their staff is the single most powerful advocacy strategy you can pursue.” The six steps they list are a great beginner’s guide. I will highlight and summarize the four I find most relevant to dental professionals who spend the majority of their time in a clinical setting and may not have had the opportunity to head to their state or national capitol.   

    Click through the slides to learn more.

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    Jennifer Hasch
    Jennifer Hasch, BS, RDH of Louisville, Kentucky, is the founder of the PHRDH blog RDHonamission.com. She is the 2017 recipient of the ...

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