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Dental and Medical Communities Piloting Partnership in Mid-Michigan To Detect and Defeat Disease

LANSING, Mich., Dec. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The next time you visit a dentist in the mid-Michigan area, don't be surprised if they check your blood pressure in addition to your brushing habits.

Delta Dental of Michigan, Ingham Regional Medical Center/McLaren Health Care and the Michigan Primary Care Association are spearheading a pilot project designed to have dentists and physicians work together more closely on detecting high blood pressure in patients.

"Dentists are the champions of prevention and should be considered a key member of your personal health team to help maintain a healthy mouth and body," said Dr. Thomas J. Fleszar, D.D.S., M.S., president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Michigan. "Many people see their dentist more often than a primary care physician so this chair-side health team concept presents a tremendous opportunity for positive change."

At least one-third of Americans age 50 or older who have hypertension (high blood pressure) and see a dentist at least annually don't know they have the disease, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early research indicates that gum disease and heart disease may be connected and scientists are further examining the link between oral health and its impact on cardiovascular health.

Under the pilot partnership kicking off in January 2009, dental offices in mid-Michigan will screen patients for high blood pressure. If they detect a problem, the dentist will recommend they see their primary care physician or offer a referral through Ingham Regional Medical Center/McLaren Health Care and the Michigan Primary Care Association. IRMC will then conduct follow-up calls to the patients offering further health education and referral assistance.

"Imagine the opportunities for catching hypertension that we could be taking advantage of with a simple, efficient and effective chair-side screening," said Dr. Jed Jacobson, D.D.S., M.S., M.P.H., senior vice president and chief science officer at Delta Dental of Michigan. "Having dentists, physicians and patients work together as disease detectives can make a serious and lasting difference. This will save lives."

Delta Dental will provide blood-pressure monitors for participating dental offices to use for this project.

After the results of the pilot project are reviewed, the program could expand geographically and, eventually, start incorporating other "chair-side screenings" for diseases such as diabetes.

A study is scheduled to begin in early 2009 at the University of Michigan to examine the potential benefits of checking blood-sugar levels of dental patients as a way to catch pre-diabetic and diabetic conditions.

"With chair-side screenings, dental offices will be on the frontline not only for detecting oral diseases but also for other diseases throughout the body that affect oral health and overall health," Jacobson said.

About Delta Dental

Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, with its affiliates in Illinois and Tennessee, make up one of the largest dental plan administrators in the nation. In 2007, the enterprise paid out nearly $1.8 billion for dental care for more than 7.6 million enrollees. Offices are located in Okemos and Farmington Hills, Mich.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Lisle, Ill.; Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis, Tenn.; and Indianapolis and Greenwood, Ind.

About Ingham Regional Medical Center

Ingham Regional Medical Center, a subsidiary of McLaren Health Care Corporation, is a community-based, university-affiliated teaching hospital, rated among the top 5 percent nationally among non-government, acute care hospitals by HealthGrades for quality care and clinical excellence. The hospital is celebrating its 14th year as a Cardiac Center of Excellence and the leading cardiovascular program in mid-Michigan.

About Michigan Primary Care Association

Since 1980, the Michigan Primary Care Association has been the voice for Community Health Centers and other community-based providers in Michigan. MPCA's mission is to promote, support and develop comprehensive, accessible, and affordable community-based primary health care services to everyone in Michigan.

SOURCE Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana
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