Integrating Oral & Physical Health: Part 6

Last year, the Health Policy Institute and the American Dental Association conducted a joint survey to determine the Oral Health and Well-Being in Oregon. Among their findings:

  • 94 percent of Oregonians value their oral health and agree that regular dental visits keep them healthier.
  • 81 percent of Oregonians believe it is important to visit their dentist twice a year.
  • 80 percent of Oregonians believe straight, bright teeth help you get ahead in life. 

While this shows that the majority of Oregonians understand the importance of oral health care, further findings highlight the barriers that keep many people from accessing dental services. For instance:

  • 59 percent of Oregonians believe care is too costly.
  • 26 percent of Oregonians have a fear of the dentist.
  • 21 percent of Oregonians say there is not a convenient location or time for them to schedule an appointment. 

As a result of these and other barriers:

  • 72 percent of low-income adults, and 44 percent of high-income adults, agree with the statement, “I accept I will lose some teeth with age.” 

Dental-Medical Integration Pilot

Despite recognizing that oral health care is an important part of their overall health, currently, only about 30 percent of Oregon Health Plan members visit their dental home. Closing this gap requires holistic integration of oral health into primary care settings where members are most likely to access care.

InterCommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization (IHN-CCO) and its contracted dental plans (Capitol Dental Care, Advantage Dental, ODS/MODA, and Willamette Dental Group) are collaborating with local medical clinics on a pilot project that uses a set of standard dental screening questions to educate diabetic patients about oral health and provide dental referrals.

The dental screening questions can be asked by any level of provider within the medical clinic to gain a quick, broad assessment of a patient’s oral health condition. The two questions are:

  • Have you seen your dentist in the past 12 months?
  • Are you experiencing any dental pain?

If a patient says they have not seen a dentist in the past 12 months, and/or is experiencing any dental pain, the provider makes a referral to the appropriate dental plan. 

Feedback From Our Partner Clinics

The Dental Medical Integration Pilot has been implemented in a number of clinics, including Samaritan Family Medicine in Albany and Samaritan Internal Medicine in Corvallis. At both clinics, Care Coordinators are responsible for tracking diabetic patients and ensuring they receive a screening and referral if needed. According to care coordinators at both clinics, having these services available at the clinic has helped raise awareness about dental benefits and oral health care among their patients.

 “Our patients became aware of their benefits. Most were unaware that dental is covered. Most patients that do not have natural dentition think that the dentist is no longer a factor in their care. Our favorite aspect at Geary Street is to be able to educate our patients about their benefits and provide them with connections to utilize these services.”

– Samaritan Family Medicine

“A majority of our patients have stated they were not aware of having dental coverage provided to them. There have been numerous patients that were very thankful for the information and were eager to be able to get their dental care that they have needed to have done. It’s a fantastic project and I am so thankful that our clinic has been able to participate! This pilot has been a great step in the right direction toward caring for the patient holistically.”

– Samaritan Internal Medicine

Interested in Oral Health Programs & Services for Your Clinic?

If you would like more information about integrating oral health programs and services in your clinic, please contact our Provider Services Team at 541-768-5207 or 1-888-435-2396, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will connect you with one of our dental coordinators. 

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