The Secret to Better Health (It’s Not What You Think)
Want to feel better? Get your physician and your dentist to work together.
It’s a simple solution backed by science. We’ve long known that health starts in the mouth: more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations. Poor oral health is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pregnancy complications, cognitive decline, and many other serious medical conditions. Moreover, poor oral health makes these and other conditions harder to treat.
As many of you know, I recently joined DentaQuest, a leader in oral health transformation. A new study commissioned by DentaQuest around the time of my arrival, Reversible Decay: Oral Health is a Public Health Problem We Can Solve, reinforces the mouth-body connection – and points to a number of opportunities for improvement.
What’s most encouraging is we already see widespread consensus: medical-dental integration has support from all sides. The findings show that the vast majority of dentists, physicians, employers, and Medicaid dental administrators – and eight of ten patients – understand that oral health and overall health are connected.
Further, our research affirms that improved collaboration between dental and medical providers can in fact improve patient wellbeing. Dentists and physicians agree that collaborative health teams improve health outcomes. Some also see collaboration as a path to simpler and more agile care delivery, greater efficiency, and cost savings.
So, how can we do it? One solution is to expand dental services to locations outside of dental offices, including primary care offices and community health centers – something that both patients and dentists support. I’ve experienced this firsthand at the Dimock Center, where our patients could access both oral health and primary care in the same building.
Taking a fresh look at insurance coverage will also uncover ways to improve access to care. For example, as our study found, patients and providers alike see an opportunity to integrate health insurance and dental insurance and are in fact strongly supportive of the idea. The majority of patients also see the need for oral health to be a part of Medicare and Medicaid benefits, again demonstrating widespread desire for more comprehensive coverage and integrated care.
To put it another way, the secret to better health… really isn’t a secret.
Better health is about taking care of the whole person. My experience in caring for vulnerable populations runs deep, and time and again, my own patients would reaffirm my belief that a holistic approach to care should be the standard.
I joined DentaQuest because I know that patient-centered care works, and because I believe that transformative change is possible and necessary at a national level. DentaQuest’s mission is to improve the oral health of all. Medical-dental integration – designed around the patient – is one way to make it happen, and it will improve overall health in the process. I look forward to updating you on our efforts to accelerate progress on a systemic level in the coming months, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments section below.