People want to live healthy lives and dentists are at the heart of making that happen. Playing an essential role in the overall health of their patients, dentists have a unique, front-line opportunity to provide holistic patient care. They can help their patients achieve their best health by delivering personalized, simplified, whole-person healthcare experiences using innovative solutions and resources.
Dentists can flag problematic symptoms and even certain SDOH, like food insecurity, in patients and refer those at risk to government programs and community resources for help. Once at-risk patients are identified, a direct pathway is created into the broader population health topic affecting both themselves and their families, and clinicians can act to improve their overall well-being. 
Dentists play a crucial role in identifying patients’ SDOH as they often see their patients more frequently than physicians, especially those patients who adhere to the recommended cleaning every six months. This regularity essentially makes dentists a first line of detection and treatment for the public. Dentists have the opportunity to discuss a variety of concerns that affect their patient’s quality of life, general well-being, and potential health risks. Clinicians need to be provided with the tools and support to embed social determinants into their workflow and patient experience so they can screen and flag problematic symptoms and even certain SDOHs, like loneliness and food insecurity, in patients. 
Now, more than ever, food insecurity – a condition defined by limited or uncertain access to sufficient, nutritious food for an active, healthy life – disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. In fact, food insecurity is a core SDOH and is associated with numerous poor health outcomes in both the short and long term.
Households already struggling with food insecurity may find their current situations exacerbated by state and local government COVID-19 restrictions and mandates. As a side-effect of those shutdowns and restrictions, household food insecurity has risen from 11% in 2018 to 38% in March 2020; in April 2020, 35% of households with a child aged 18 and under were food insecure. 
For the overall wellbeing of a DSO’s community and the patients it serves, it is essential for dental professionals to recognize and address SDOH in dental patients. In order to build on strong and trusted relationships with patients, DSOs need to need to incorporate SDOH screenings into their routine patient examines, so they can then discuss community resource or social service options when patients screen positive.
Your DSO’s dental team can address and support the health-related social needs of patients with the help of Humana by using the resources below. Led by clinicians, Humana helps DSOs deliver care by designing plans with benefits that remove barriers to care. By eliminating plan maximums, adding additional cleanings without scheduling restrictions, and placing an emphasis on periodontal care, patients are able to get the care they need, when they need, it thereby improving population health.
Learn more about how Humana is expanding dental care and focusing on prevention in our podcast interview with Dr. Dean Fry, Chief Dental Officer, Dr. Andrew Renda, Associate Vice President, Population Health and Dr. John Yamamoto, Dental Director at Humana:
What Your DSO Can Do to Help Determine Patients’ SDOH Today:
Become a part of Humana’s network. Join HERE
Download the Food Insecurity Toolkit
Download a helpful resource guide to support dentists as
they screen and address the social health needs
of patients: Guide to Addressing SDOH in Patients
More Humana Resources
- American Health Information Management Association, “Integrating Medical and Dental Records: A New Frontier in Health Information Management,” 2018, https://library.ahima.org/doc?oid=102372#.X4dUb22SmL8
- US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “The Role of Dentists and Primary Care Physicians in the Care of Patients with Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders,” 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5471315/
- US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “Food Insecurity and COVID-19: Disparities in Early Effects for US Adults,” 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352694/
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