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Say “AHH—HAA!”: The Healthy Mouth Healthy Body Connection

| Date Posted: 3/9/2015


Steven  Van Scoyoc, DDS

By Kay Grismer
for The Foundation of FirstHealth


PINEHURST – Who hasn’t experienced an “Aha!” moment? A sudden realization that can be life-changing – or even life-saving.


The “Aha” moment for Southern Pines periodontist Steven Van Scoyoc, DDS, came more than 15 years ago when he was preparing for dental school at the University of North Carolina.


“I shadowed a periodontist who was doing an oral exam on a patient when he saw signs of inflammation that could be related to diabetes,” Dr. Van Scoyoc recalls. “His questions led the patient to affirm that she had a family history of the disease but had never been tested.


“This had a profound impact on me. I was amazed that after a 15-minute exam he had uncovered a significant medical problem. That was my first introduction into the link between oral health and systemic health.”


Since then, Dr. Van Scoyoc, an advocate of medical-dental collaboration, has devoted his career to helping others realize their own oral health “Aha!” moment by educating them about the critical connection between a healthy mouth and overall physical health.


On Thursday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunrise Theater on Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines, Dr. Van Scoyoc and The Foundation of FirstHealth will host an exclusive free screening of “Say Ahh,” the world’s first documentary on the importance of dentistry and medicine working together to improve the oral and systemic health in both patients and the health care system.


Physicians Dan Barnes, D.O., and Patrick Simpson, M.D., will join Dr. Van Scoyoc to discuss the impact of poor oral health on the cost of medical care and quality of life for those living in the Sandhills. Dr. Barnes is a FirstHealth hospitalist and president of the FirstHealth Physician Group, and Dr. Simpson is a cardiologist with Pinehurst Medical Clinic.


“When I learned about the ‘Say Ahh’ documentary,” Dr. Van Scoyoc says, “I knew it would be a perfect fit for our community to broaden the lines of communication between the medical and dental communities as we collaborate our resources to better address patient concerns and to improve their health.


“The timing seemed perfect, because the American Academy of Periodontology recently launched a multi-year public awareness campaign called ‘Love the Gums You’re With,’ that is working to raise awareness about the very conditions this documentary addresses.”


Dr. Scoyoc describes the collaboration with The Foundation of FirstHealth as “a dream come true.”


“FirstHealth is an amazing partner that is passionate about education and impacting the lives of people in our community,” he says.


Many people are unaware that dental disease is epidemic. Ninety percent of American adults have some form of gum disease – 38 percent have gingivitis (gum inflammation) and more than 50 percent have periodontal disease (gum infection), the most destructive form of dental disease and a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, pre-term labor, oral cancer, COPD, and a whole host of other conditions and chronic diseases.


In fact, studies have shown that periodontal disease may be a more serious risk factor for heart disease than hypertension, smoking or high cholesterol. People with periodontal disease are four times more likely to have heart disease, at twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack and at triple the risk for stroke. Pregnant women with untreated gum disease are up to eight times more likely to give birth prematurely.


“Many times, dentists are the front lines in detecting conditions like hypertension, diabetes and oral cancer that prompt us to refer our patients to medical care providers,” Dr. Van Scoyoc says. “When disease is detected early, treatments are often less costly and more effective. This profoundly impacts patient health and helps to reduce increasing medical costs.”


 “Say Ahh!: The Movie”

Thursday, March 19, 6:30 p.m.

Sunrise Theater, Broad Street in Downtown Southern Pines

To register, call (910) 695-7510 or online at

Seating is open and free to the public.


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