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While the United States government multiply the efforts To close health care gaps and achieve health equity across the country, dental care emerges as a significant barrier. Many Americans do not have access to the dental care they need, a problem exacerbated by the lack of universal integration of oral health into primary or behavioral health care. The two are inseparable despite the inexplicable boundary between dental health and medical health. Unless oral care in the United States becomes a standard part of preventive health care, the consequences will continue to be disastrous.
Dental care is health care
Recent search from Journal of Clinical Periodontology Linking poor dental health to a significant increase in complications from Covid-19 is evidence of the urgent need to bring dentistry more in line with traditional healthcare settings. The link between oral hygiene and maintaining overall good health is not new to the medical community, but the data is prescient.
As new diseases such as monkeypox threaten the public health of a wider population, better alignment between the health and dental industries is paramount. Physicians and dentists must be able to deploy scalable technologies that introduce improved preventive care and early detection. Such capabilities are essential for maintaining and improving patient health in dental and medical settings.
An impossible choice
In a report 2015, the Federal Reserve found that about 25% of Americans chose not to pursue the dental care they needed because they couldn’t afford it. It’s a dangerous trend, and that’s why the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) described in 2017 the integration oral health and primary care as “the number one goal in addressing oral health disparities”.
The Journal of Clinical Periodontology the data highlighting the link between gum disease and Covid-19 reflects the urgent need for better alignment between the healthcare and dental industries. For decades, the medical community knows that our dental system struggles to fight tooth decay and periodontal disease, two common oral diseases linked to other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. For the dental community to successfully safeguard the oral and medical health of patients, it needs a widespread deployment of technologies that can deliver better preventative care. These tools will lead to early disease detection and less invasive and more affordable treatment for patients.
The fight for health equity
The US government encourages health systems to improve population health by closing gaps in care and promoting health equity. This reality can only be achieved by breaking down the artificial barrier between dental and medical care.
Since chronic diseases, including heart disease, dementia and diabetes, can be detected (and treated) earlier with proper oral care, dentists and physicians must be able to provide prompt diagnoses , accurate and complete. This is accelerating the urgency to leverage technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to improve clinical outcomes and practice efficiency.
The Power of Connective Care
Widespread adoption of dental AI is critical for medical-dental integration (MDI) as it dramatically improves a healthcare professional’s ability to identify systemic diseases. Only by linking medical and dental care can real change in health care be achieved, addressing the oral health needs and associated chronic conditions of our most vulnerable populations.
For too long in the United States, the idea that dental care is optional or an indulgence has hurt patients. Only by eliminating the insane gap between the mouth and the rest of the body can we solve one of the country’s most pressing health problems. Early identification and intervention for oral disease can transform whole-body health, providing more comprehensive oral and traditional medical care.