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Midwest Health Center Pioneers Integrated Oral Health Services

Pregnant moms tend to focus more on their unborn children than on their gums. 

Health care providers at Grace Health in Battle Creek, Michigan, are getting women to think about both to prevent oral health problems from emerging during pregnancy.  The hormonal changes stemming from pregnancy can cause infections that contribute to everything from gingivitis (gum inflammation) to increased cavities for some women. 

“We know they’re related,” said Dr. Peter Chang, CEO at Grace.  The health center integrates dental care with its OB/GYN practice and pediatrics to prevent problems and get an early start on children’s oral health, too. 

The oral health integration approach influences how providers approach care during pregnancy, said Jill Wise, the center’s chief operating officer.  Following a first trimester assessment, doctors and nurses will use a second trimester visit to include topics such as diet and oral health.  By the third trimester, they will start talking about infant oral health and how to get children started with dental care early on. 

Meanwhile, Grace is using its information technology systems to make visits more efficient for patients and providers alike.  A patient flow analysis revealed how much time patients spent going from one office to another, so the center reconfigured its work.  Patients go to one room and various providers come and go from that room as needed.  This saves patients the time previously spent moving from one place to another and allows providers to get to the next patient quickly. 

Patients and providers both prefer the innovative approach, Chang said.  “It really integrates all the services.”