For those concerned about improving health care in the Tri-Cities, there is a gathering this week that you won’t want to miss.
The Eastern Washington Medical-Dental Health Summit is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, and organizers are hoping to attract a great crowd.
From a community standpoint, any forum that helps address health care needs in the Tri-Cities is going to get our support. And this particular event, which focuses on cooperation among health care professionals, highlights some great ways to improve patient care.
The first summit that brought together Tri-City doctors and dentists was in 2014. Thanks to the efforts of Richland dentist Lee Ostler, the Tri-Cities is a leader in encouraging medical and dental health care providers to combine forces.
And while the beginnings of this connection started a few years ago, it continues to need more support and more people to sign on to the idea. This week’s summit is designed to help with that.
Ostler said years ago that he became intrigued with what was then breakthrough research confirming the relationship between oral health and the rest of the body.
Numerous scientific studies have confirmed links between symptoms that can be found in the mouth during routine dental exams with medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and stroke.
The mouth is full of bacteria that can build up on teeth and lead to infections. Ostler explained that those bacteria can leave the mouth and travel elsewhere in the body, causing serious health problems. Also, when someone is fighting a gum infection, it can weaken the immune system, which also can lead to troubling consequences for the patient.
As Ostler continued his research, it became clear to him that our community needed a better way for medical physicians and dentists to work together. So he got things moving, and now the Tri-Cities is an example to other communities across the country.
The Thursday program is aimed at bringing together dental and medical care professionals, hospital officials, health educators, state and civic leaders, and anyone else who is interested in this issue.
The next day, the summit continues with medical presentations designed primarily for those working in dentistry, medicine and other health-related fields.
Keith Ironside, director of Vista Sleep Center in Kennewick, is a supporter of the summit and told the Herald Editorial Board that children who have sleep and breathing issues at night often have behavior problems later on.
He is one of the presenters on Friday, and will discuss obstructive sleep apnea and how medical and dental health professionals can work together when patients have this condition.
Providing affordable, accessible and reliable health care is a priority in any community.
An event like this summit, which helps establish a better way for dentists and doctors to treat patients together, is a great opportunity.
We hope community leaders and health care professionals don’t pass it up.
For more information, go to www.MedicalDentalSummit.com.