Editorial examines the important role dental care teams can play in improving overall health
Today, a team from the DentaQuest Institute announced the publication of an editorial “Improving health in the United States: Oral health is key to overall health,” in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). The editorial features contributions by Natalia I. Chalmers, DDS, PhD, Diplomate American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, Joseph S. Wislar, MS, Sean G. Boynes, DMD, MS, Mark Doherty, DMD, MPH, and Brian Nový, DDS.
The authors studied both state-level dental utilization and self-reported health data to examine the relationship between dental visits and overall health. Their analysis found that there is a strong correlation – growing stronger over time – between dental visits and positive self-rated health status. What does that mean? As the authors put it, “states in which adults are more likely to visit the dentist also tend to have the lowest proportion reporting fair or poor health.”
Research indicates that dental care settings are an effective access point for people who are not actively seeking primary medical care or those in less than ideal health. Additionally, dental screenings can be useful tools to identify other systemic conditions.
“We know that oral health impacts overall health,” says Dr. Natalia Chalmers, director of analytics and publications at the DentaQuest Institute and co-author of the editorial. “Now we are beginning to recognize the impact that dental teams can have on population health improvement and implement mechanisms to address patient needs more holistically.”
The authors recommend that dental care teams focus on three aims to improve the overall health of their patients: 1) improve the patient experience of care, 2) improve the health of populations, and 3) reduce the per capita costs of health care.
Opportunities for medical-dental integration provide means to achieve these aims. While the authors are clear that improving health takes the coordination of a multi-system solution, the research highlights that dental providers can and should play a significant role in improving the overall health of their patients.
Interested in learning more about this and other research by the DentaQuest Institute? Visit the website at www.dentaquestinstitute.org.