Oral health professionals could play a greater role in detecting chronic disease
CHICAGO, USA: A recently published study has suggested that chairside screenings in dental practices for the most common chronic diseases could save the U.S. health care system more than $100 million annually. In addition, those screenings could result in more savings in the long run through prevention and oral health promotion.
In the study, researchers at the Health Policy Resources Center, an institution associated with the American Dental Association that collects and analyzes data and other information on a wide range of dental-related issues, reviewed population data, estimates of chronic disease prevalence and rates of medication adherence to estimate cost savings that would result from screening patients aged 40 and older who had seen a dentist but not a physician in the last 12 months.
They found that medical screenings for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol in dental offices could save the health care system between $42.4 million ($13.51 per person screened) and $102.6 million ($32.72 per person screened) over one year, and lead to healthier outcomes for patients.
"About 27 million people visit a dentist once a year but not a physician," said Dr. Kamyar Nasseh, study author and health economist at the American Dental Association. "This presents an opportunity for dentists to be part of an integrated health care team working to combat chronic illnesses."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 percent of health care expenses in the U.S. relate to treatment of chronic diseases. CDC states that about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. are unaware of having high blood pressure and 7 million people have undiagnosed diabetes, which is the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-extremity amputations, and blindness among adults aged 20–74. An estimated $153 billion is spent on chronic diseases and about 7 in 10 deaths among Americans are from chronic diseases each year.
The study, titled "The Effect of Chairside Chronic Disease Screenings by Oral Health Professionals on Health Care Costs," was published online on Feb. 13 in the American Journal of Public Health ahead of print.