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Dr. Richard Carmona to deliver keynote address

You won't want to miss the ADA's first-ever Oral Health Literacy Symposium starting today, because what you don't (and do) say can hurt your dental practice.

"Oral Health Literacy Symposium: Ethics, Risk Management and Communication" will convene today, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and continue tomorrow 3-5:30 p.m. at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. (Course code: 4301.)

This free symposium is presented by the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations with support from Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co.

"This symposium will highlight the pivotal role that communication plays in a caring situation and it is an exciting opportunity for the entire office staff—anyone who communicates with patients," said Alice Horowitz, Ph.D., advisor to the dean on health literacy at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and a member of the ADA's National Oral Health Literacy Advisory Committee. Dr. Horowitz is one of the presenters for the symposium.

"Communicating goes beyond talking. It also means listening, being helpful and reinforcing ideas and being able to assess an individual's level of health literacy and work to have improved oral health outcomes and more satisfied patients."

Richard Carmona, M.D., the 17th U.S. Surgeon General (from 2002-2006), and a champion for health literacy, will be the keynote speaker for the symposium.

Dr. Carmona, now vice chairman, Canyon Ranch; president, Canyon Ranch Institute; and distinguished professor, University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, will present "Health Literacy: Barriers and Solutions to Improving the Public's Oral Health."

The interactive symposium will focus on health literacy and implications for dental practice, including professional liability, communication by the dental team and ethical responsibility and provide practical solutions based on the best available information on health literacy.

"Dentists have an ethical obligation to inform patients of their dental condition and possible evidence-based treatment options," said Dr. Lillian Obucina, another conference presenter. "Patients, in turn, have the right to participate and make choices in their treatment. Until the patient has a basic understanding of dental disease and treatment, they cannot make informed decisions. If informed consent does not exist, then potential legal ramifications may arise if the treatment outcomes are not what the patient expected. A lack of health literacy can lead to malpractice exposure. Dentists must therefore make an effort to educate patients because they are the patient's most reliable source of dental information."

Other symposium topics will include:

  • "Practical Tools to Address Health Literacy," by Dr. Jessica Lee, associate professor, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
  • "Ethical and Legal Implications of Communication and Risk," by Dr. Lillian Obucina, a dentist, attorney and consultant in Chicago;
  • "Health Literacy: The Demands We Place on Patients," by Dr. Horowitz;
  • "Assessing the Dental Practice," by William Smith, executive vice president and senior scientist, Academy for Educational Development, and co-author of "Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion."

Participants will earn 8.5 hours of continuing education credit for attending both days.