How medical-dental integration would advance dentistry

Creating additional overlap and collaboration between the medical and dental professions is something that seven dental professionals would like to see done more in the industry.

The leaders featured in this article are all speaking at Becker's 2024 dental conferences. This includes our Spring Future of Dentistry Roundtable, which is set for June 19-21 at the Swissotel in Chicago, and our Fall Future of Dentistry Roundtable, which is set for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

If you work at a DSO or dental practice and would like to be considered as a speaker, contact Randi Haseman at

As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who will speak at our roundtables. The following are answers from our speakers at the events.

Question: What is something you would like to see done differently in the dental industry?

Manu Chaudhry, DDS. President of Capitol Dental Care (Salem, Ore.): Without a second thought, I wish the dental industry would embrace true medical-dental integration through interoperability and treating through healing. Interoperability is the ability to access physical health information and share dental health information, and integration into the dental electronic health record will advance our profession. All too often, we seek to treat diagnosed tooth decay and gum disease, and as a profession we must drive more upstream advancement that prevent disease.

Mark Doherty, DMD. Endodontist and Partner of South Coast Endodontics (New Bedford, Mass.): Diagnosing orofacial pain can at times be challenging, especially when nonodontogenic conditions (sinusitis, neuralgias, TMJ disorders, myofascial pain syndrome) mimic tooth pain or when tooth pain mimics nonodontogenic conditions. One thing I would like to see done differently in dentistry is better interdisciplinary collaboration among dentists, specialists and physicians when diagnosing complicated cases of orofacial pain. If there was better integration with medical and dental personnel, along with interoperable electronic dental and medical records, it could and should minimize patient/provider frustration, duplication of testing, wasted time and expense. 

Sodabeh Etminan, DMD. Senior Director of Oral Health of UI Health Mile Square Health Center-South Shore (Chicago): As someone who works in an interdisciplinary setting, I would like to see more dental practices integrated with medical care. This includes EHRs that include medical and dental modules, and more communications between different disciplines. As patients are growing older and becoming more medically complex, it is important to treat the patient holistically instead of in a siloed model. 

Maxine Feinberg, DDS. Dentist and Periodontist of Maxine Feinberg DDS (Cranford, N.J.): I would like to see a stronger interdisciplinary approach to patient care, resulting in more comprehensive treatment. This will result in better overall oral and systemic health.

Michelle Henry. Director of Dental Hygiene of Singing River Dentistry (Tuscumbia, Ala.):  I would love to see the dental industry be the leader when it comes to medical and dental integration for the patient's health. We will need to place importance on training the medical industry on why we should be included on their health questionnaire. For example, we ask all the medical questions concerning the patient's health during their dental visit on our medical history questionnaire. Routine dental visit dates should be included in health records. When we visit our medical doctors we are asked for dates of routine screening such as mammograms, chest X-rays or colonoscopy.

Deric Ikuta, DDS. Dentist of Ikuta Dental Health Center (Reedley, Calif.): Something I would like to see done differently is having more interdisciplinary teamwork for patients. Dentistry has traditionally been a very siloed profession with the solo practitioner. Even referrals to a dental specialist weren't a daily occurrence, let alone working with someone in healthcare outside the dental profession. Dentistry's scope has really expanded across the healthcare spectrum, especially when we look at the entire breadth of our profession. The most prevalent crossover working with MD's is with treating OSA/SBD. Currently it is a difficult task getting an interdisciplinary professional network; however, if you can achieve that goal it is very rewarding collaborating to get the best outcomes for your patients.  

Clifford Lisman, DMD. Department Head, Practice Management, Dental Department and Member, Medical Executive Committee of Newark (N.J.) Beth Israel Medical Center: There are many things that I would like to see done differently in dentistry. My top three are as follows: Having true dental-medical-behavioral health integration; having a healthcare system (that includes dentistry) that rewards and incentivizes for outcomes versus procedures; and last but not least, seeing dentistry catch up with medicine on medicine's emphasis on having a culture of patient safety that goes beyond that of just sedation and anesthesia. Each of these are key components in reducing healthcare costs and improving overall population health outcomes.

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