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Getting to “Know Your OQ”: Exclusive commentary from Colgate on comprehensive oral health initiative

Dec. 15, 2022
It all starts with education: Learn more about “Know Your OQ,” a digestible, compelling resource dentists can leverage to educate their patients about the importance of oral health.

Dr. Maria Ryan, Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Colgate-Palmolive, discusses the purpose and value of "Know Your OQ," the company's comprehensive educational program launched in 2022.

Question: Those in dentistry understand the necessity of proper oral care, but why is it so important to talk about oral health to the general population?

MR: We’ve all been taught the importance of brushing our teeth, yet what most consumers don’t know is that cavities remain the most prevalent chronic disease among adults and children. It’s estimated that oral disease affects nearly half the world’s population—that’s a global health crisis. And the consequences of tooth decay and gum disease aren’t just for your mouth—oral health is the gateway to your overall health and well-being. In fact, research shows oral diseases are linked to physical health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes and that they also have an impact on mental health and emotional well-being. Yet there is a lack of awareness around the impacts of oral health. To address this global health crisis and compel people to prioritize their oral care, we need to educate people that a healthier future starts with a healthy mouth.

Question: What does it mean to "Know Your OQ"?

MR: In early 2022, Colgate launched a comprehensive educational campaign called KnowYourOQ. The idea behind the movement is this: just as people may know their IQ or EQ, which measure cognitive and emotional intelligence, we want everyone to know their oral health quotient. If you Know Your OQ, you understand that oral health is linked to physical health and emotional well-being, you are aware of the signs and symptoms of oral diseases, you are informed about preventive strategies and the simple steps for improved oral hygiene at home, and you know the importance of seeking the help of an oral care provider for prevention, diagnosis, and management of oral diseases.

Know Your OQ offers tons of information about the links between oral health and overall health and simple ways to brush up on oral hygiene habits that both dental professionals and consumers can benefit from. This site is a great conversation-starter for dental practitioners to share with their patients. In addition, it can introduce many consumers to why it is so important for them to assess and maintain their families’ oral health.

They’ll also find a free, interactive assessment to determine their oral health quotient (OQ score) on a scale of 1 to 10. The educational assessment doesn’t just provide an OQ score; it’s also a teaching tool that offers information and explanations while taking the quiz. And it works. A recent Colgate revealed that exposure to Know Your OQ has a significant impact on improving people’s awareness of the importance of oral health and changing their attitudes toward oral care. What’s more, it even sparks behavior change, leading to a significant increase in brushing twice a day and using fluoride containing toothpastes. Just by taking the quiz, people are educating themselves about the importance of oral health and taking steps to improve their oral care habits.

An additional resource for dentists, hygienists and healthcare providers is our LinkedIn series "Getting to Know Your OQ" where thought leaders in dentistry, medicine, and nursing are interviewed about recent findings and developments connecting oral health to overall health and well-being. 

Question: Why is it so critical for dentists to encourage their patients to know and improve their OQ score?

MR: Poor oral health impacts overall physical and mental health. A recent global Colgate study found that childhood cavities lead to worry, anxiety and sadness in both kids and their parents, and cause kids and adults to miss up to three days of school and work per year, respectively. Periodontal diseases also increase the risk for other conditions, such as diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes.

But there’s hope: these oral diseases are largely preventable. Still, despite this overwhelming evidence, few people know that oral health is essential to overall health. The general population doesn’t recognize that visiting the dentist and taking proper care of their mouth at home are critical to managing caries and treating periodontal diseases to reduce infection and inflammation.

KnowYourOQ is an educational tool dentists can use to help people around the world understand the importance of the work that we do as dental professionals to not only improve esthetics, but also to improve on their overall health and well-being through a better understanding of the connections between oral health and overall health. It teaches people proven, preventive strategies like brushing twice daily with a toothpaste containing an active ingredient to prevent cavities, flossing daily, using mouthwash to get to hard-to-reach areas, and more. The website is a digestible, compelling resource dentists can leverage to spread the message to their patients: If you Know Your OQ and take care of your mouth, you are promoting your healthier future.

Question: How have the past few years impacted people’s oral health?

MR: The COVID-19 pandemic is making oral health an even more important issue because many children and adults haven’t been getting regular dental checkups or keeping up with proper oral care habits at home, and this has significant impacts on their overall well-being. Now more than ever, people need to understand how to take care of their mouths  to take charge of their health.

Question: What else is Colgate doing to disseminate this important message?

MR: In addition to Know Your OQ, Colgate is working to advance oral health worldwide through groundbreaking research studies that advance our understanding of the links between oral health and overall health. We’re doing this by developing numerous technologies to improve on oral health, by working with dentists through the ADA on Give Kids a Smile Day, and through our Bright Smiles Bright Futures programs worldwide.

But it all starts with education, so we encourage health professionals, including dental professionals, to share KnowYourOQ within their communities, with patients, and with networks of families and friends to help people discover their OQ scores so they can learn about the importance of oral health and improve their oral health quotient.