Oral health: more than a public health challenge, an opportunity for telehealth?

Untreated caries in permanent teeth was the most prevalent health condition in 2010, affecting 35% of the global population, or 2·4 billion people worldwide. In 2010, severe periodontitis was the sixth-most prevalent health condition, affecting 10·8% of people, or 743 million, worldwide.

Worldwide in 2015, dental diseases accounted for US$356·80 billion in direct costs and US$187·61 billion in indirect costs.

Is oral health the next big SDH (Social Determinant of Health)? A focus in this month’s Lancet is the neglect of global oral health. Most of our Readers know that oral self-care can be a challenge with older adults due to physical limitations, finances, and access, but oral  and periodontal disease affects nutrition, is a source of pain, tooth loss, consequent low self-regard, low quality of life, and can lead to other diseases such as sepsis and undiagnosed cancers.

The Lancet’s two articles, Oral diseases: a global public health challenge and Ending the neglect of global oral health: time for radical action (open access, registration required on these links) point out the current allopathic model does not fit the wider societal need,  and come down hard on the social and economic origins (very hard on Western dental practice, the sugar industry, and food providers). However, the articles are light on solutions other than universal health care and community based dental practice. Even in less-developed countries like India and Brazil, practitioners don’t migrate to poor, rural areas. It is true, however, that much of dentistry, at least in the US, has an increasing focus on cosmetic restoration.

Here is a wide-open area for telehealth development. Some areas to explore:

  • Creating wider access to dentistry that treats immediate problems
  • Greater access to proactive dental care, whether dental checkups and to encourage better self-care
  • Connecting rural fixed or mobile clinics staffed by technicians or locally trained staff with dentists for remote screening and scheduling care. 

Hat tip to Leah at The TeleDentists for these articles. The articles are also attached as PDFs here and here.

Comings & goings: The TeleDentists go DTC, gains Reis as CEO; University of Warwick spinoff Augmented Insights debuts (UK); a new CEO leads GrandCare Systems

The TeleDentists leap in with a new CEO. A year-old startup, The TeleDentists, has announced it will be going direct-to-consumer with teledentistry consults. This will permit anyone with a dental problem or emergency to consult with a dentist 24/7, schedule a local appointment in 24-48 hours. and even, if required, prescribe a non-narcotic prescription to a local pharmacy. Cost for the DTC service is not yet disclosed. Currently, the Kansas City-based company has provided their dental network services through several telehealth and telemedicine service providers such as Call A Doctor Plus as well as several brick-and-mortar clinic locations.

If dentistry sounds logical for telemedicine, consider that about 2 million people annually in the US use ERs for dental emergencies; 39 percent didn’t visit a dentist last year. Yet teledentistry is just getting started and is unusually underdeveloped, if you except the retail tooth aligners. Several US groups are piloting it to community health and underserved groups, with Philips reportedly considering a trial in Europe (mHealth Intelligence). This Editor notes that on their advisory board is a co-founder of Teladoc.  Release

The TeleDentists’ co-founder, Maria Kunstadter, DDS, last week announced the arrival of a new company CEO, Howard Reis. Mr. Reis started with health tech back in the 1990s with Nynex Science and Technology piloting telemedicine clinical trials at four Boston hospitals, which qualifies him among the most Grizzled Pioneers. He also was business development VP for Teleradiology Specialists and founding partner of The Castleton Group, a LTC telehealth company, and has worked in professional services for Accenture, Telmarc and SAIC/Bellcore. Most recently, he started teleradiology/telehealth firm HealthePractices. Over the past few years, Mr. Reis has also been prominent in the NY metro digital health scene. Congratulations and much success!  

In the UK, the University of Warwick has unveiled a spinoff, Augmented Insights Ltd. AI will be concentrating on machine learning and AI services that analyze long term health and care data, automating the extraction in real time of personalized, predictive and preventative insights from ongoing patient data. It will be headed by Dr. James Amor, whom this Editor met last summer in NYC. Long term plans center on marketing their analytics services to tech providers. Interested parties or potential users may contact Dr. Amor in Leamington Spa at James@augmentedinsights.co.uk |Congratulations to Dr. Amor and his team! 

And in more Grizzled Pioneer news, there’s a new CEO at GrandCare Systems who’s been engaged with the company since nearly their start in 1993 and in its present form in 2005. Laura Mitchell takes the helm as CEO after various positions there including Chief Marketing Officer and several years leading her own healthcare and marketing consulting firm. Nick Mitchell rejoins as chief technology officer and lead software developer. Founders Charlie Hillman remain as an advisor and Gaytha Traynor as COO. Their offices have also moved to the Kreilkamp Building, 215 N Main Street, Suite 130, in downtown West Bend Wisconsin. GrandCare remains a ‘family affair’ as this profile notes. Congratulations–again!