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The US Healthcare Crisis: An Important Opportunity for the Dental Office

A Unique Opportunity

The epidemic of heart disease and diabetes in the United States has us all concerned for the future of our society. The lives of our friends, family, neighbors, children, patients—everyone, really—are risk for diseases that are responsible for 1 in 4 American deaths every year.

We discussed in the last editorial how the evidence of good dental health and its effects on the healthcare crisis in the U.S. provides a unique opportunity for us as dental professionals to help.

Regular treatment for and preventative maintenance against periodontitis (and just overall oral healthcare) shows a decrease in hospitalizations and average annual costs per patient for strokes, heart disease, and diabetes.

Your job and your responsibility are actually your opportunities to make the world a healthier place.

An Important Conversation for the Dental Office

As a dental health professional, education for our patients and other non-healthcare providers about these connections is widely available for you to take advantage of.

The thing is, dentistry has been aware of this science and research for years now that support the benefits of good oral health to overall health, yet we have been reluctant to bring it to the forefront of our conversations.


For starters, there are no real guidelines for us in having this kind of conversation.

This leads to a lot of unanswered questions, like:

  • What questions do I ask the patient?
  • How do I fit this conversation into my already maxed out appointment schedule?
  • How do I fit this education for myself into my already maxed out personal schedule?
  • What do I do when a patient agrees they need help?
  • What treatment do I offer specifically in my office’s “Statement of Care”?

As human beings, we tend to stall when we don’t have the answers to such questions. And as dental professionals, we enjoy structure. We want to know what to do, to say, to think even in any given situation.

Remember, it has become our legal and ethical responsibility to advance our methods of care. Courts have ruled in favor of patients in lawsuits where dental teams failed to diagnose oral cancer or periodontal disease. With what we know about the increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes that accompanies oral disease, there is enormous potential for legal implications if periodontal disease is misdiagnosed or improperly treated.

We can’t fall back on the “I don’t know” excuse. It’s our responsibility to know what to do.

There has never been a better opportunity for dental and medical professionals to coordinate care for the benefit of their patients and their practices. And there is no better place to start than the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health’s 2018 Scientific Session in conjunction with ACAM and AAPMD.