The effect of chairside chronic disease screenings by oral health professionals on health care costs

Am J Public Health. 2014 Apr;104(4):744-50. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301644. Epub 2014 Feb 13.


Objectives: We estimated short-term health care cost savings that would result from oral health professionals performing chronic disease screenings.

Methods: We used population data, estimates of chronic disease prevalence, and rates of medication adherence from the literature to estimate cost savings that would result from screening individuals aged 40 years and older who have seen a dentist but not a physician in the last 12 months. We estimated 1-year savings if patients identified during screening in a dental setting were referred to a physician, completed their referral, and started pharmacological treatment.

Results: We estimated that medical screenings for diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia in dental offices could save the health care system from $42.4 million ($13.51 per person screened) to $102.6 million ($32.72 per person screened) over 1 year, dependent on the rate of referral completion from the dental clinic to the physician's office.

Conclusions: Oral health professionals can potentially play a bigger role in detecting chronic disease in the US population. Additional prevention and monitoring activities over the long term could achieve even greater savings and health benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / economics*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Cost Savings / economics
  • Cost Savings / statistics & numerical data
  • Dentists*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus / economics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / diagnosis
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy
  • Hypercholesterolemia / economics
  • Hypercholesterolemia / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / economics
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Referral and Consultation