The changing landscape of dentistry
The modern dental landscape has changed. The new models of practice are being guided by research revealing the link between oral and systemic health. Studies show that up to 50% of heart attacks are triggered by oral bacteria[i] . Other studies have demonstrated links between oral bacteria and diabetes[ii], high blood pressure[iii], dementia[iv], autoimmune diseases[v], preterm labor, miscarriage and infertility[vi]. Not surprisingly the dental community is shifting toward wellness and preventive treatments, replacing the reparative models of the past. Technological and scientific advances are making it possible to recognize patient’s risk for oral diseases that harbor dangerous bacteria, information that has the potential to be life-saving.
Many are making an effort to bridge the gap between the dental and medical communities in order to best serve patients. Some physicians are taking their role seriously, realizing their local dentists are vital to the overall health of their patients as Dr. Charles Whitney, MD states “Periodontal disease is a medical condition of the mouth that physicians cannot treat.”[vii] Dental professionals are attempting myriad of approaches, mainly the adoption of new technologies slowly into practice. However, it is proving to be a challenge for many to fit these new preventive standards into outdated infrastructures. That is why many offices are choosing to totally revamp their systems to better serve their patients. They are choosing to transform themselves from a restoration-focused office into a dental wellness center.
What is a dental wellness center?
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a dental wellness center; however there are 4 basic identifying components:
- The team recognizes the patient as expert and co-manager of their health
- The office has a capacity to address conditions that cause a loss of function (i.e. sleep apnea, TMD, periodontal disease)
- The team has prioritized risk assessment and prevention of disease
- The office has the capacity and training to bill a patient’s medical and or dental insurance
Dental wellness centers keep their focus on the patient at all times. They realize the importance of co-managing disease and involve the patient in the decision making processes from the moment the patient steps foot in the waiting room. Patients are regarded as experts of their own bodies and are consulted and included in the treatment planning process. Dental wellness centers also prioritize risk assessment for disease prevention. This includes things like caries risk assessment, oral cancer screenings and periodontal DNA testing. Dental wellness centers address conditions that are considered to cause a patient loss of function: periodontal disease, sleep apnea, and TMD, among others. Finally, dental wellness centers have the capacity and training to cross-code medical and dental insurance.
[i] Bacterial signatures in thrombus aspirates of patients with myocardial infarction. Circulation. 2013, March 19; 127(11): 1219-28
[ii] Efficacy of Periodontal Treatment on Glycemic Control in Diabetic Patients. Diabetes Metabolism 2008, Nov;34(5) 497-506.
[iii] Periodontal Bacteria and Hypertension (INVEST). Journal of Hypertension 2010, 28: 1413-1421.
[iv] Serium antibodies to periodontal pathogens are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2012 May; 8(3): 196-203.
[v] Periodontal Therapy Reduces the Severity of Active Rhumatoid Arthritis in Pateints Treated with or Without Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors. Journal of Periodontology, 2009, Vol. 80, No.4, 535-540.
[vi]Maternal periodontal disease and preterm or extreme preterm birth. Journal of Periodontology. 2010 Mar; 81(3): 350-358.
[vii] Enough talk about the oral-systemic link: It’s time to bridge the gap between dentistry and medicine. Whitney, Charles MD. (www.dentistryiq.com)
There are several benefits to adopting a wellness approach, some of which are outlined below.
- Increased profits
While upfront there may be expenses to bring in new technology and expand the professional capacities of team members, you will experience ROI monetarily and otherwise with your increased capacity. Connecting a patient’s oral heath to their overall health will increase treatment acceptance (often due to the capability to bill medical insurance), generate quality referrals from physicians, and add a sizeable amount of new production to the schedule every month.
- Professional growth
Professionally you team members will be pushed and stretched as you develop your new system. They will require advanced training in some areas. Anticipate they will meet the challenge with excitement. Their knowledge can and should be used to educate others in the field. Encourage them to seek out opportunities to speak and write about their experience.
- Market differentiation
Becoming a dental wellness center will set you apart from your competition. For people seeking comprehensive care, your office will fit the bill. Your network of referrals will expand as you make connections with physicians and other health care providers.
- Patient/provider relationship building
There is nothing better than knowing you have the full trust and confidence of your patients. When you and your team begin to carry out the vision of a dental wellness center your patients will know it and trust you. They will feel your concern for their overall health and that will build confidence and trust in your relationship.
Is dental wellness for you?
If you are not sure if becoming a dental wellness center is right for you, consider these questions:
- Do you have the desire to grow your practice and stay at the forefront of the industry?
- Do you want to take care of your patients overall health, and not just their oral health?
- Do you want to stand out in your community of health care providers as the prevention specialist you are?
If you answered yes to any of the above, becoming a dental wellness center is for you. But, don’t go at it alone. It is a great undertaking to overhaul an entire practice. Resources are available to assist you and your team members as the process unfolds. If you are serious about making change, schedule a consult with expert Christine Taxin at Links2Success. If you aren’t ready for a consult, you are encouraged to walk through the Dental Clinic to Wellness Center Action Planning Guide. Remember, the time is now and as author Karen Lamb so poingniently states: “A year from now you may wish you had started today"