The Future of Dentistry

IMG_6804I recently sat in with a small group in Columbus listening to the new Dean of Case Western University discussing the future of dentistry.  Just like all other facets of health care, dentistry is rapidly evolving from the 1 dentist small practice to multiple dentists working closely (often in the same facility) using patients’ electronic health records to connect all the patient’s health professionals together.

Last year, 50% of Case Western’s graduating dental students went into large dental practices after graduation. The dentist practices are beginning to disappear, just as the solo physician practices did in the 1960’s. The Dean is now restructuring the dental school curriculum to prepare dentists to work closely with physicians and nurses in a team.  In the future, dentists will be directly involved in most treatment from the collarbone up. Dentists will not treat medical conditions; however, we will manage the dental needs of patients being treated for medical problems. Currently, I have a patient with many abscessed teeth who has severe chronic back pain. His physician will not operate until his mouth is healthy. If the surgeon operates before I get the mouth healthy, these diseased teeth would send their bacterial infection to affect the surgical sites in his back and ruin the surgery.

To help dentists learn to be part of the total health team, Case Western freshmen in medicine, dentistry, and public health meet regularly to discuss how they can work together to treat obesity, smoking/cancer, diabetes, and other health problems.  The new term is “inter-professional education”.

So, what is happening in private practice today?  A few years ago, the federal government set up guidelines for the “Medical Home Model” that describes what the future medical practice will look like.  Currently, Troy has one group practice that meets these criteria.  Although the “Dental Home Model’ criteria has not been officially disclosed, HealthPark matches all the projected criteria.  We are ready to be part of this integrated concept when the government calls.

The government realizes that people see a dentist three times more often than they see their physician – and 1-2 of these visits is because they know they should have their teeth cleaned every 6 months.

This 6 month cleaning is a good example of how far dentistry has come. At HealthPark, we have over 1000 patients that we have worked with long enough that they only need 1 cleaning a year.  This provides them with good dental health, improves their general health, and significantly reduces their annual dental costs!

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