The Delta Dental Institute Gathers Health Care Leaders In Phoenix To Discuss Access To Comprehensive Care

Fourth event in roundtable series to raise oral health's prominence in broader health care conversations


Sep 26, 2019 | Press Release

PHOENIX, AZ — On Wednesday, the Delta Dental Institute brought together 20 Arizona leaders for the fourth event in its national roundtable series. Joined by health care and business leaders, policymakers, academic researchers, and members of the media, the conversation focused on defining and tackling barriers to accessing affordable, comprehensive health care.

Delta Dental of Arizona (DDAZ) President and CEO Allan Allford opened the event with a reflection on the meaning of comprehensive health care and the vital role that oral health plays in promoting optimal overall health. He highlighted the various initiatives DDAZ supports in pursuit of comprehensive care, including providing school-based screenings, supporting free dental clinics, and funding an oral health educator position at Phoenix Children's Hospital to help lower infection rates across the facility.

A major theme that emerged from the conversation was the importance of targeting solutions to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, including people who are homeless, have disabilities, or live in rural or tribal areas far from accessible care. Participants discussed dental health coordinators as one solution to ensure that patients don't just receive treatment, but also educational information about the importance of dental care and its effect on the rest of their bodies. Arizona's insurance program for low-income individuals, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), addresses some of these needs, but many participants agreed the state needs to do more. Multiple participants, including Kevin Earle of the Arizona Dental Association, argued that the cost cap for emergency services is too low and that the state could actually save money in the long-term by investing in preventive services.

Foundational to the event's discussion was the connection between oral health and overall health. While the leaders around the table all understood this link, they discussed the importance of explaining the connection to the general public and especially to policymakers. The Honorable Regina Cobb, a member of the Arizona House of Representatives and a dentist herself, remarked that they are making progress. "People are seeing the connection between mental and physical health," she said, "and it's starting to happen with oral health as well." Dr. Robert Trombly, Dean of the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health at A. T. Still University, noted it is critical to "use data to show the impact of oral health on overall health."

The Phoenix event was the fourth in the Delta Dental Institute's series of roundtables, which is taking place in cities across the country to put a new spotlight on the importance of oral health. The first event took place in Denver, CO, in conjunction with the launch of the Delta Dental Institute on June 19, followed by Chicago, IL in July, and Nashville, TN in August. The Delta Dental Institute will travel to Boston, MA next, then on to Washington, D.C. Meeting firsthand with local leaders will help inform the Delta Dental Institute's national research and advocacy agendas. 

See Axios' coverage of the discussion in Phoenix here.