Dentists as Healthcare Providers for the Oral-Systemic System

As increased understanding of how systemic health issues are related to dental issues continues to rise, and research into microbiomes and bacterial systems grows, dentists are becoming ever more important in caring for patient overall health. Oral disease and medical conditions have been related in more and more specific instances, ranging from oral bacteria entering the digestive tract or blood to diabetes and cardiovascular health. As healthcare providers, dentists have information that is crucial to overall patient care.

Oral health has drawn attention for overall healthcare at least since 1891 (DeRossi & Sollecito, 2012). Causality is still a question: whether oral health causes other health conditions, vice versa, or whether both oral and systemic health are affected by the same factors. But oral health can provide key indicators for chronic disease and can change the risk factors for pregnancy. Periodontal disease and cardiovascular problems (specifically atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease) are known to be linked as well.

In addition, dentists are well-placed to detect oral cancers. This is even more important with the advance of cancer detection technologies, such as Vitilize Plus, a brand-new screening technology that can detect very early stage oral cancer with no pain, in less than two minutes (Morof, 2013).
As healthcare professionals with key health information at their fingertips, dentists are well positioned to inform general practitioners and provide indicators for overall systemic health.

Yet, at the moment, few organizations accept information from dentists, much less seek it. As Electronic Health Records (EHRs) continue to rise in medical contexts, dentists have an opportunity to provide information that will inform a patient’s long-term health history. Dentists can and should be part of health information exchange.

Lessons Learned:

  • Oral and systemic health are known to be correlated, yet data is rarely exchanged between dentists and other healthcare providers.
  • Long-term patient health records should include dental and oral health information.
  • As technology continues to advance, dentists may become ever more important in detecting and preventing systemic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular problems and the like.
  • For dentists to participate in overall health, standardized data exchange is necessary between providers.

 

DeRossi, Scott & Scollecito, Thomas. (2012) The Oral-Medical Disease Connection: Pregnancy, Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes. Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, June. Last Accessed Jan 15, 2013: http://cced.cdeworld.com/courses/4595

Morof, Daniel. (2013) Dr. Daniel T. Morof Dentist of Cherry Hill Dental Center Introduces Oral Cancer Screening for Early Detection. PRWeb, Jan 14. Last Accessed Jan 15:  http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2013/1/prweb10319689.htm