Steve Geiermann DDS, Member of the National Oral Health Connection Team

As Thanksgiving has passed and the winter holiday season is upon us, I have a few moments to reflect upon the gift that the Oral Health Progress and Equity Network (OPEN) has been to me. OPEN and its predecessor entities have truly been a gift to many of us. Oral health has come to the fore in so many ways and its importance acknowledged across the lifespan of those we are called to serve. I have found and come to know more diverse oral health stakeholders than I realized existed. People who share my passion and my struggles for moving oral health forward. We have come to identify and appreciate the various gifts that each of us bring to the table and how by working together, “one and one” actually equates to more than three!

As much as I have received and savored wondrous friends and resources from my association with OPEN, I am reminded that this truly is a season of giving. OPEN is not solely a wellspring of riches. It is also a reminder of all those who either cannot access dental care or who have to make the difficult decision of prioritizing food, prescriptions, child care, or housing over addressing their dental needs. What we can give this season are options to those most in need. We can work with our medical colleagues to integrate oral health anticipatory guidance into their preventive strategies. We can advocate for family-centric Medicaid benefits, so that parents can role model good oral health behaviors to their children. We can welcome all pregnant women, little kids, and older people with co-morbidities to more easily access dental care. We can continue to make the case that oral health benefits in Medicare are essential services that will make a difference in each individual’s overall health.

This is my wish list for the holidays. Though I still look for Santa and listen for those sleigh bells outside my window, I know that I must give if I am to truly receive.