In a recently published article in the American Journal of Public Health, the ADA Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC) did a study that showed that by having dentists screen for the most common chronic medical diseases, dentists could save the American health care system up to $102.6 million annually.
The lead author of the study stated that up to 27 million people go to the dentist for at least a dental cleaning, but not to a physician in any given year. If dentists could screen said dental patients for chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, they could save nearly $33.00 per person which equals $102.6 million across the board. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population has undiagnosed hypertension, close to 3 percent are walking around with undiagnosed diabetes and just over 8 percent have undiagnosed high cholesterol. These chronic diseases cost the U.S. more than $153 billion annually in lost productivity. By having dentists screen for these major chronic diseases as part of an integrated health care team, dentists and physicians could work together to fight chronic illness in America. Research shows that nearly half of all adult Americans suffer from chronic illness, which equates for more than 75 percent of health care costs and up to 70 percent of the deaths in the United States.
The article states that there is an opportunity for additional savings over the life of each patient because if any of these diseases were diagnosed early, they could take steps at prevention, early intervention and health promotion. The ADA President, Charles H. Norman, D.D.S stated, “We have long known that the mouth is the window to the body, but we have an increased understanding about the roles that dentists can play in detecting chronic, systemic disease. This study shows that dentists can contribute to reduce health care costs in the U.S. by screening for chronic conditions.”