Dentists are already becoming increasingly involved in whole body health efforts because of the crucial role of the mouth in your body’s workings. However, by embracing an additional role as health screeners, they could expand access to healthcare even further and save up to $102.6 million a year in healthcare costs, according to research by the American Dental Association (ADA).

The Role of Dentists in Whole Body Health Care

We already know that oral health can have an impact on whole-body health. Gum disease can lead to increased risks of many types, including pregnancy complications, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.

In addition, TMJ can affect many of the body’s systems, leading to symptoms such as headaches, ringing in the ears, neck pain, upper back pain, and more.

At Smile Columbia Dentistry, we embrace this philosophy as we have the only two Columbia dentists qualified as Fellows by the foremost neuromuscular dentistry institution in the world, the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies.

The Potential Future Role of Dentists

The ADA stresses that dentists can do even more to expand their impact by implementing chairside screening for a number of basic health conditions. Every year, about 27 million Americans see a dentist, but not a doctor. By getting health screenings for these Americans, dentists could recommend follow-up with a physician. The ADA focused its study on just three conditions that are easy to screen for and are underdiagnosed:

  • Elevated cholesterol 8.2% undiagnosed
  • Hypertension 7.8% undiagnosed
  • Diabetes 2.7% undiagnosed

Just for screening those conditions and recommending a referral to a physician for preventive treatment, dentists could lead to a reduction in healthcare costs of $42.4 million to $102.6 million.

These are annual savings based just on the preventive power of treatments for these conditions compared to more invasive and expensive treatments that may have to be started once symptoms manifest and cause people to see their doctor.

The ADA also believes this would be very much in line with the philosophy of dentistry, which emphasizes preventive treatments for most common dental problems.