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Unlocking Better Healthcare: The Case for Doctor-Dentist Collaboration

Group medical team hands putting together jigsaw puzzle on white background

Data demonstrating the critical connection between oral health and overall health continues to build with a new study in The Journal of the American Dental Association. Researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine found that patients who report having poor oral health may be as likely as those already diagnosed with gum disease to have negative health outcomes. With the oral health disparities experienced by racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and the fact that nearly half (46%) of Americans over age 30 showing signs of gum disease, this finding should raise a red flag for doctors, dentists, and the patients they share – but too often, it doesn’t.

SKYGEN Chief Dental Officer Dr. Larry Paul has long advocated for closer collaboration between doctors and dentists. “The lack of collaboration comes at a high cost to individuals and the entire healthcare system,” says Dr. Paul. “People don’t understand that oral health issues can be as serious as any other health issue. We should be looking at dentistry as a branch of medicine, and creating a framework that enables doctors and dentists to serve together as advocates and educators for our patients.”

Listen to One Doctor’s Personal Account of the Importance of Oral Care

In an episode of SKYGEN’s SKYCAST podcast, Dr. Paul talks with Dr. Hazel Glasper about the often-unrecognized connection between oral and overall health. Dr. Glasper speaks from the heart about the tragic loss of two of her family members related to oral health issues, and her realization that dentists need to change the conversation with their patients about oral disease as a contributing cause of heart attack, stroke, and uncontrolled diabetes. She is the founder of Teach Me Dental, a movement to redefine how the public understands and treats their dental health.

Listen now

Recognizing the Connection

Poor oral hygiene and untreated oral diseases can lead to a variety of health issues beyond the mouth, affecting various organs and systems:

  • Cardiovascular disease - bacteria and the inflammation associated with gum disease can enter the bloodstream and contribute to conditions that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Respiratory health – oral bacteria be aspirated into the lungs, potentially leading to pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
  • Diabetes - periodontal disease can make it more difficult for individuals with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. Diabetes, in turn, can impair the body's ability to fight infections, including those in the mouth. This bidirectional relationship underscores the importance of managing both oral health and systemic health in individuals with diabetes.

Other systemic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and pregnancy complications, have also been linked to oral health. These connections highlight the holistic approach needed to maintain overall health for all people. 

How SKYGEN Can Help

SKYGEN is working on several fronts to raise understanding about this critical connection and help our clients take action. With SKYGEN technology solutions, insurers can:

  • Tailor oral care for members with specific conditions without losing the advantage of SKYGEN claims processing automation. For instance, many clients refine their businesses rules to allow members with diabetes to have additional covered visits to their provider for more frequent preventive care.
  • Educate members about the importance of regular dental care, good oral hygiene practices using SKYGEN’s Member Mobile App and Member Web Portal.
  • Support providers on this issue through the SKYGEN Dental Hub™ and Provider Select Suite.
  • Move toward oral health equity targets using analytics and automation to improve access to quality care.

SKYGEN also leads the Clinical Council, a forum for clinician leaders at SKYGEN clients to learn and share trends, insights and solutions to dental industry challenges. All of these strategies can help change the way healthcare industry stakeholders view oral health and prioritize and deliver quality dental care. To bring your health plan onboard with the power of technology, talk with an experienced dental benefits administration expert at SKYGEN

Learn how you can transform the delivery of health benefits with SKYGEN.