Why 4 leaders are pushing for dental-medical integration

Medical-dental integration is increasingly picking up steam, as the understanding between overall health and oral health continues to grow. 

Integration between the medical and dental fields is still in the early stages, but these four leaders are looking to keep the momentum going. 

Here, four leaders of the dental industry share why they believe medical-dental integration is important and how the integration could be accelerated.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD. President and CEO of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health (Boston): I think what's needed is the continued reinforcement of the business case as we think about the overall cost of care. We know integrating basic health screenings into a dental setting, as an example, could save the healthcare system up to $100 million a year. [CareQuest has] a program called MORE Care, which means medical oral expanded care. Our focus has been on integration through that program, and through that specific program we've been able to serve over 13,000 medical and dental patients through the program.

Lisa Simon, MD, DMD. Associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston): If I could wave my magic wand I'm sure I'd make it advance more quickly, but I think we've actually seen a huge amount of change just in the last five years. More recently, we've seen some really exciting policy changes that have never happened before. For example, the new, very limited dental benefit for medically necessary dental care seems like a small thing, but it's also the first time Medicare's ever offered dental treatment to people, so that's amazing. There are ways to go, but it's been exciting just to see how much progress we've been able to make with our fields shining a spotlight on some of these issues. 

Stephen Thorne. Founder and CEO of PDS Health (Irvine, Calif.): When you look at the data across hundreds of studies, it consistently shows a significant decrease in overall cost of care for patients who receive proper oral health care. Dentists can play a key role in this area. Most people know to visit the dentist twice a year, but they might not see their primary care doctor as often unless they're feeling sick. This regular contact with dental professionals positions them as an essential first line of defense in early detection of health issues through comprehensive screenings. We all know that early intervention is key in maintaining overall health and managing healthcare costs. With this in mind, it's clear that dentists and oral healthcare providers must be part of the primary healthcare team.

Bryan Carey. CEO of Benevis (Atlanta): Even though oral health and our broader physical health and well-being are innately connected, dental and medical care are not. There are two entirely different systems of professional training schools, insurance coverage and care networks for dental and medical care, resulting in very different access and outcome levels. We know that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood in the U.S., yet it is often neglected due to cost and inaccessibility. Americans spend $2.7 billion on dental-related visits to the emergency department each year. Bringing dental care and medical care together would not only help improve our nation"s oral health, but it would also improve the health of our economy.

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