Editor’s Note/January 2019 EGP

New Year, New Age

Laura Thill

Welcome to 2019 – and our annual Efficiency in Group Practice New Products Guide. It’s important to us to keep our readers abreast of the newest technologies and services, which they, in turn, can share with their patients.

That said, not every dental patient is on board with the value of newer dental treatments – a continuous source of frustration for providers who genuinely care about their patients’ health. The good news is, based on current findings, it’s becoming difficult for the public to discount the importance of preventive dental care. As researchers continue to connect the dots between oral health (particularly periodontal disease) and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma, payers, regulators and providers are getting the message. Patients will likely have a harder and harder time ignoring care and treatment.

For instance, in October 2018, Dominion National, a dental insurer and administrator of dental and vision benefits headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, released a study indicating people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease who received preventive dental care covered by Capital BlueCross’ BlueCross DentalSM benefits had fewer emergency room visits and hospital stays. Before that, in September 2017, dental insurer United Concordia released a study examining the medical benefit when an individual absent a chronic medical condition regularly sees their dentist two times a year for checkups and cleanings, compared to those who do not.

“The dental/medical connection has picked up momentum in the past two decades,” says Dominion National Vice President of Marketing Jeff Schwab, whose company not only provides dental and vision benefits, but administers dental benefits on the part of medical insurance providers. “Overall, oral health professionals and physicians recognize the benefit of closing the information gap between them,” he says. Short of sharing patient records, primary care providers – particularly pediatricians – can continue to promote dental care to their patients; meanwhile, dentists can discuss the oral/medical connection to their patients, help detect signs of several chronic health conditions through oral exams, and refer patients to the appropriate healthcare provider.

2019 isn’t just a new year. It looks to be the start of a new age in dental healthcare.