When AHCJ Executive Director Len Bruzzese shared this Grantmakers in Health report with me, I thought it provided great food for thought for health reporters anywhere in the country. The paper – “Returning the Mouth to the Body: Integrating Oral Health and Primary Care” (PDF) – summarizes weaving together these two varieties of basic, essential health care.
Mary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.
If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The whole idea might ring a bell for those of you in states such as Washington, Colorado and Michigan where officials have examined the concept. The rest of you might want to stay tuned. A pilot project may be coming to a community near you.
As the Grantmakers in Health brief points out, combining primary and oral health care systems can potentially save money as well as pay off in streamlined information sharing and improved chronic disease management and prevention. Ultimately, integrated services might also get oral health care to at least some of the millions of Americans who are unable to get it.
“According to the American Dental Association, an estimated 30 percent of the population has difficulty accessing dental services via the predominantly private practice delivery system,” the brief points out.
“By expanding entry points into the dental care system, integration of oral health into primary care has the potential to improve access, especially for at-risk and underserved populations that typically have greater access to primary care professionals than to dental care.”
There are, however, barriers and challenges. Continue reading