There is a well-demonstrated relationship between systemic and oral health. More than 90% of all systemic diseases can be linked to oral health such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia. Because of this critically important link, the integration of medical and dental care is crucial for overall patient health.
In the medical-dental integration (MDI) model, dental and medical professionals share information and work collaboratively to provide a patient’s care. Coordinated and streamlined communication between the oral and systemic environments can help identify disease precursors and underlying conditions in keeping with a patient-centered model of care. As a result, there are both improved interprofessional communication and overall health care outcomes.
Current MDI models reduce barriers and increase positive health outcomes in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women, and those in need of chronic disease management. MDI closes care gaps in these vulnerable populations by decreasing the number of facilities, appointments, and providers a patient must interact with. These models also increase access to oral health education, screening, and prevention of dental disease, and reduce early childhood caries. MDI-focused clinics have built the capacity to diagnose and refer for chronic disease management. Furthermore, the expansion of Medicaid allowed MDI programs to focus on underinsured populations to receive the quality of care they need.
In general, the MDI model is widely supported, and coordinated communication of the entire team is necessary for positive patient outcomes. MDI models have been implemented throughout the US with varying degrees of success. While there is no single formula for the success of the MDI model, each clinic faces unique barriers and finds varying ways to overcome them. Adapting to specific situations in each clinic and finding creative ways to maximize the success of MDI is crucial to continuing the evolution of integrated care.
The evidence for MDIs has not been extensively reviewed, and recommendations for sustained growth and success are few. Delta Dental of Colorado, Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, and the Delta Dental Institute are constantly focused on ways to expand access to oral health care and break down barriers preventing oral health care equity. To this end, Dr. Tamanna Tiwari, a DDCO and DDCOF board member and assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, partnered with the Delta Dental Institute to publish a research paper to critically evaluate the integrated models used for care delivery for systemic-oral health implemented in the last ten years. The purpose of this paper is to develop a deeper understanding of the approaches of MDI models, understand the challenges and barriers MDI models face and the solutions implemented, and assess the sustainability of MDI models and future of integration pathways.
Read Medical-Dental Integration Models: A critical review of the last decade. You can also check out the work Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation has been doing on medical-dental integration by clicking here.