Nutrition and Dentistry: An argument for electronic dental health records

As dental health is increasingly linked to overall patient health, the connection between generalized health records and dental data becomes more and more prominent. Russo provides an overview of how nutritional information is connected to dental health, and the key finding this site draws from the article is this: Current dental records are inadequate, and dental data needs to be shared with physicians.

Periodontal disease is well known to have systemic, long-term effects throughout the body. But how can dentists with only sporadic contact with patients encourage significant changes? Why aren’t physicians aware of the diagnosis? What role can nutrition play in fighting periodontal disease and increasing overall health?

Russo shares results from surveys of oral health and foods that provide antioxidant benefits, as well as vitamins that affect oral and systemic health. Yet few dental records track this data, much less convey that information to patients. Russo also brings up the critical need for software interfaces for new devices that are able to track and monitor nutritional health for better dental treatment:

“We need to be able to measure nutritional levels in the body. We could assume that everyone is nutritional deficient, and probably be right most of the time, but that is not science. Traditionally, obtaining a biomarker for nutrition has been expensive and invasive, only blood or tissue sampling was available. However, obtaining an inexpensive and non-invasive measurement of antioxidant status is now possible with a device called the Biophotonic Scanner. This technology inexpensively and more accurately than blood serum testing can measure antioxidant status in the body in 90 seconds. ” (Russo, 2012)

A dental electronic health record would provide the mechanism to capture and view holistic patient information in this way, providing an overview that could be shared with physicians and patients to improve overall care. Such technology and overall view of patient health provides a unique and very exciting opportunity for dentists to own their pivotal role in overall health:

“The ability to measure and monitor nutritional status will enable us to make nutritional recommendations that will enhance our treatment outcomes and improve our patients lives. We see our patients on a more regular basis than any other health care provider.”

Lessons Learned:

  • Nutritional data can be captured quickly and relatively easily, but needs to interface with patient clinical data to make a difference.
  • Oral health and systemic health are tightly interwoven, and dental electronic records offer the opportunity to track and share systemic health information with physicians and patients.
  • The lack of shared information between dentists and physicians means that physicians can be uninformed about systemic conditions like periodontal disease.

Russo, Jacqueline (2012)  Nutritional considerations for long-term remission of periodontal disease. Dentistry IQ, March 1.