Dentistry: the missing puzzle piece that fights chronic health conditions

We’ve mentioned that dentistry compliments health care overall and how adding a dental provider and/or dental specialties can help you increase your financial independence and better serve your patient base.

The majority of patients – approximately half – perceive oral health to be more important than other health care specialties and subspecialties. Dentistry compliments the other health care specialties and subspecialties – cardiology, endocrinology, primary care, etc. – unlike any other health care component. How? Dentistry, if leveraged properly, can assist with value-based care because it provides prevention and management strategies for a patient’s chronic health conditions, including obesity and diabetes. Why is this such a big deal? Because 12 percent of FQHC dental patients have a chronic health condition.

The National Association of Community Health Centers’ (NACHC) latest white paper, Oral Health Value-Based Care: The Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Story, comes from a partnership with DentaQuest and was released in August 2020. The paper discusses how Americans perceive dental services and how dentistry can support and improve a patient’s chronic disease management. NACHC suspects that telehealth will also enter dentistry. “Teledentistry, [if implemented and continued after the pandemic, will allow] dental clinicians to identify urgent cases and provide preventative care.”

Some interesting stats from the white paper:

  • 3 in 4 Americans have experienced barriers to accessing dental care. Patients most commonly cite the high costs of dental care and a lack of dental insurance coverage as barriers to accessing dental care.
  • For Americans in poverty, receiving dental care is more challenging – 93 percent of individuals living in poverty have unmet dental needs. When they can access dental care, low-income Americans spend 10 times more as a proportion of their annual family income on dental services.
  • Nationally, 23 percent of FQHC patients are medically uninsured. It is likely that the uninsured rate for patients seeking dental services at FQHCs is even higher given the limited dental coverage for adults through Medicaid.

The paper’s key findings are:

  • 13 percent of Medicaid dental visits to FQHCs were acute or emergency in nature.
  • FQHCs are conducting caries risk assessments during Medicaid encounters more regularly than non-FQHC dental programs.
  • For every 1 percent increase in patients receiving dental services, the proportion of diabetes patients with uncontrolled diabetes declined by 0.2 percent.

FQHCs generally have a higher degree of interoperability, which supports the ability to collect both outcomes and payment information crucial to a value-based model, but inconsistent metrics still present a challenge.

Treating dental patients provides better health outcomes for everyone. We can help implement dental and teledental services while achieving quality measures and financial independence.

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