According to the CDC, six in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic disease. And out of every 10 deaths in the United States, seven are caused by chronic conditions. Health experts predict those numbers will only worsen in the next decade.
Prevention has never been more important.
And prevention, long known as a critical strategy in health care, is gaining traction in dentistry. There is a growing recognition that a healthy mouth, the result of regular preventive care and check-ups, is the foundation of a healthier life.How can prevention help create healthier mouths and healthier lives for your Medicaid members? We’ve identified four innovations — two high-tech and two high-touch — that are shaping the future of the industry. These innovative dental approaches have the potential to significantly improve access to care and influence member behaviors.
High-Tech Prevention: Making It Easier to Access Dental Care
Many factors can result in poor access to dental care, including financial pressures, lack of insurance and transportation challenges. Teledentistry, which has gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, is helping to close this access gap.
Teledentistry can meet members where they are, giving them a virtual platform to interact directly with their dental providers and more proactively address their oral health anywhere, at any time. Providers, too, are finding that teledentistry has the potential to enhance how they care for their patients, including in emergencies.
Teledentistry can benefit Medicaid and Medicare members as well as:
- Individuals who are uninsured
- Underserved and rural populations
- Patients with urgent dental care needs
- People who have a fear going to the dentist
For dental providers, teledentistry bridges critical patient access gaps by expanding limited capacity within a practice, while also removing travel barriers that can get in the way of emergency dental consults and preventive hygiene education. And it helps improve the patient referral process through provider-to-provider consultations.
As it evolves and is more widely adopted, teledentistry will have broader implications for patient outcomes, costs and care-delivery capacity.2. Provider Search Tools
Improving access also means empowering members to easily find primary dentists, oral health care specialists and dental practices at their own convenience.
A new generation of online tools like DentaQuest’s Find-a-Dentist are enabling members to locate care with just a few clicks. These tools can help:
- Give patients an easy, mobile-friendly way to find providers in the DentaQuest network.
- Drive higher member net promoter scores
- Meet CMS compliance requirements
Innovative teledentistry platforms are also equipping members to take better charge of their oral health and identify direct access to care.
High-Touch Prevention: Personalizing Dental Care1. Medical-Dental Integration
Oral health is often separated from the rest of the health care system and from conversations about overall health. Yet, studies reveal that 90% of all systemic diseases manifest in the mouth.
For example, new research from the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement shows that
- Diabetes has the potential to increase risk of developing gum disease by 86%
- Individuals with gum disease are three times more likely to experience a stroke
- Pregnant women experiencing gum disease can have associated complications that include preterm births, low birthweight babies and preeclampsia
The good news is that consistent, quality preventive care reduces the likelihood of costly, preventable dental work and emergency visits. Medical-dental integration, an approach to care that integrates and coordinates dental medicine into primary care and behavioral health to support individual and population health, can be an important tool in the prevention fight.
Progressive initiatives enable individuals to enhance their own medical-dental program practices. For example, DentaQuest’s Smiling Stork program recognizes the connection between oral health and a healthy pregnancy and offers preventive practices that can improve the health of both the mother and child, while conserving future health care costs.2. Dental Home
Within medicine, a primary care provider (PCP) role plays a crucial role in delivering or arranging for all needed care. A dental home approach echoes this structure, making a primary dental provider (PDP) responsible for each member’s ongoing, comprehensive, prevention-based oral health care.
In a dental home model, members are assigned to primary dental providers who excel at delivering high-quality, cost effective care. These assignments reflect other important member priorities, including existing relationships and proximity or member-specific needs/preferences. Ultimately, and importantly, members retain the right to choose their PDP. Once forged, these consistent dental home relationships enable members to receive more personalized care in settings that are supportive of their unique needs, leading to better health and oral health outcomes.
Prevention is a vital weapon in the fight for better oral health and never before have health plans been in such a great position to combine the power of human ingenuity and technology innovation to realize new prevention-led opportunities to lead, perform and grow.
To learn more about our prevention initiatives and other efforts to improve health outcomes and lower costs, visit DentaQuest’s Oral Health Resources Library.