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  • July 8, 2019

Personalized care helps the whole patient

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The trust that’s built between patient and dentist yields two important benefits: a successful dental practice and a healthy patient. Those goals are in higher profile today as specialties across health care embrace the power of individualized treatment that spans disciplines.

As this perspective takes hold in health care, it is important for dentists to step up and take a seat at that table so they are able to provide appropriate, and in some cases, preventative care that will be vital to a patient’s treatment, health and well-being.

Dennis Abbott, DDS, and his dental team in Austin, TX, have transitioned from general dentistry to a specialty of sorts, treating patients who are battling cancer. He regularly reviews test results and talks with his patients’ oncologists and other specialists as part of a collaborative approach to treating the patient.

Sometimes called personalized care, precision care or “concierge” health care, these methodologies vary slightly, ranging from high-tech, data-driven management and treatment plans to individualized care developed across disciplines – physical, psychological and oral health care.

Whatever the definition, the approach has its challenges. Health care professionals largely are educated inside their “bubble,” investigating and treating illness inside their specialties but remaining isolated from systemic changes or side effects outside of their purview. Recognizing that a collaborative approach that busts the bubble and yields important benefits for the patient is a trend that is gaining steam.

"I cannot do what a physician or radiation oncologist does," Dr. Abbott said in a recent interview with DrBicuspid.com. "I'm not trained for that, and it's not in the scope of my practice. But they can't do what I do. I'm just as needed at the table as they are."

He began with just one cancer patient, but now they make up most of his practice, said Dr. Abbott, who spent years learning about oncology treatment and its lingo. It was an uphill climb at first. He had to convince physicians to refer patients to him before the start of cancer treatments so he could lessen or prevent oral health-related side effects, which had a big impact on quality of life for the patient.

Now, Dr. Abbott routinely runs salivary DNA diagnostics, asks for blood work from physicians and runs biological and fungal profiles. He uses these and other results to get a comprehensive picture and prescribe treatment that takes into account periodontal pathogens and effectiveness of different types of antibiotics.

"You get into really personalizing the medicament choices you're making for patient's treatment," he said in the interview. "And you're not having to go through trial and error of putting the patient on three rounds of three separate antibiotics to find one that is going to work when you could have looked at some kind of a profile from the get-go, saw what you're dealing with, and went directly to the most effective."

His type of practice may not appeal to every dentist, but Dr. Abbott said he thinks his approach is the future for dentistry. "There's going to be more of a focus on prevention and services that go beyond fillings and restorative procedures," he said. "Of course, those elements are paramount in what we do as dentists. But there is going to be more of an integration of technology and clinical testing to get quantitative numbers."

However it’s defined, the personalized patient approach requires a shift from today’s health care models, which segregate diagnosis, treatment, insurance and payment. To acknowledge all the ways a patient receives care and treatment will boost a patient’s overall health and well-being, and that’s a worthy goal.

Photo by FatCamera, https://www.istockphoto.com.


The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society.

CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.

Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, Assistant Director of Communications for the Chicago Dental Society.

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