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    How to take advantage of the growing physician-dentist collaboration

    As a growing body of research suggests a link between oral health and chronic health conditions, the benefits of physician-dentist partnership become even clearer.

     

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    Consider a study of dental claims from more than 130,000 plan participants by UnitedHealthcare. The study showed that improving the oral health of individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease, reduced their annual healthcare claims by nearly $1,300.

    “A dentist who doesn’t know about a patient’s diabetes may not think to encourage more regular cleanings,” says Richard Klich, DMD, chief dental officer at UnitedHealthcare. “And a physician who isn’t able to collaborate with his or her patients’ dentists can’t share the patients’ in-depth medical histories.”

    Connecting the dots

    Ruth Hertzman-Miller, MD, MPH, an internist, and deputy editor, systematic literature surveillance at Dynamed, recalls a female patient with diabetes. The woman wasn’t eating properly, so Hertzman-Miller suggested getting more vegetables in her diet. The woman explained that she wasn’t able to chew vegetables.

    “The health of the patient is something we all want to accomplish,” Hertzman-Miller says. To accomplish that “…physicians have to be aware of the dental aspect, and dentists have to be aware of the medical aspect.”

     

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    Hertzman-Miller points to the shortage of primary care physicians as another reason for physician-dentist collaboration. Dentists, she says, are highly trained healthcare professionals who, while not specializing in managing blood pressure, could be taught those techniques.

    Next: Overcoming challenges

    Ed Rabinowitz
    Ed Rabinowitz is a freelance writer for Medical Economics.

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