It’s widely known that healthy mouth habits like tooth-brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and making regular visits to your dentist are critical to maintaining oral health and preventing cavities and gum disease.
What sometimes gets missed – and what is critically important to know – is that oral health has much larger implications on the overall health of a person. For this reason, we must consider health holistically, as part of an integrated health care approach, rather than looking at a healthy mouth in a vacuum.
Oral health and integrated health care
Integrated health care is an employee benefits strategy that connects a person’s disability, vision, dental and pharmacy benefits to their health plan’s care management program. This allows doctors to better manage the whole health of the patient regardless of their area of medicine, insurance carrier’s nurse care managers, disability case managers and patient engagement.
Better health through co-management of health conditions
By connecting dental care to a patient’s medical care, certain health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or pregnancy can be better co-managed.
For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47 percent of U.S. adults have periodontal disease. At the same time, having healthy gums helps patients with diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels, support healthier pregnancy outcomes and limit risks for heart disease.
With this in mind, the importance of regular dental checkups to maintain good oral health to support overall health are significant. Through integrated health, dental data can be shared with the patient’s whole health care network immediately, ensuring his or her entire health care network is aware of any gaps in regular dental care and to help close these gaps as quickly as possible. Addressing these gaps quickly is critical to ensuring a patient has the best care experience and outcome possible.
Improved outcomes and lowered costs through chronic condition management
According to the CDC, 86 percent of health care spending in the United States is for treatment of chronic conditions. With integrated medical and dental care, we can help to lower these costs by ensuring each provider is aware of a patient’s chronic conditions, thus allowing providers to adjust their care accordingly and treat chronic conditions more effectively.
Take for example a patient who suffers from diabetes. Because patients with diabetes are at great risk for periodontal disease, an integrated health plan will offer additional dental cleanings or periodontal service for those patients as part of their coverage plan. This allows a patient’s full health care team to pursue the same goals of treatment.
Healthy teeth are important, but the benefits of good dental hygiene and oral health care habits reach even further.
For more information on integration of benefits, visit http://specialtybenefits.info/ihc.
Scott Towers is President, Dental Business for Anthem, Inc.