Bridging the Gap Between Primary & Oral Health Care

Transforming health care in our region will include more collaboration between primary and oral health care providers. While there is not a national consensus on what medical and dental integration looks like, we recognize that both are an important part of meeting our member’s health care needs. According to the Oregon Oral Health surveillance program, only 28 to 34 percent of Oregon Health Plan members used their dental benefits in 2014. Based on data collected by the InterCommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization (IHN-CCO), this is largely due to a lack of knowledge about dental coverage.

Today, over 50 percent of children ages 6 to 9 in the Benton, Lincoln and Linn Counties region have been diagnosed with a cavity. This is a result of underutilization of preventive dental services, lack of education in oral health, and inadequate oral hygiene at home. The percentage increases once children reach their teenage years to nearly 80 percent.

While dental services are dramatically underutilized by IHN-CCO members, other data suggests that more than 50 percent of IHN-CCO members did visit their primary care clinic in 2014. This presents a natural opportunity for dental education and integration within primary care clinics, including services such as dental referrals and oral health preventive treatment.

Over the next six months we will discuss the opportunities that primary care clinics have to integrate and coordinate dental services, and the strategies for bridging the gap between medical and dental systems. Upcoming articles include:

  • May: The link between oral health and systemic disease
  • June: First Tooth Program
  • July: Smiles for Life Program 
  • August: Co-location Expanded Practice Dental Hygienist (EPDH) 
  • September: Dental screening/referral system

For more information about integrating oral health programs and services in your clinic, please contact us and let us know you would like to be connected with one of our dental coordinators.

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