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ProHealth Dental, Catholic Health agree to work together to treat patients

The ProHealth Dental in Huntington is one of

The ProHealth Dental in Huntington is one of four on Long Island. Credit: Barry Sloan

ProHealth Dental and Catholic Health have begun working together to bridge the gap between dentistry and medicine.

The New Hyde Park-based dental group and the Rockville Centre-based health system have signed an agreement that calls for them to educate patients about the connection between periodontal disease and overall health, check for medical and dental ailments, share information with the patients’ consent and give referralswhen needed, the two organizations said last week.

The agreement does not include any financial payments between the two organizations, ProHealth Dental and Catholic Health said.

This is the dental organization’s seventh affiliation with a medical organization, adding to links with Mount Sinai Health System, the Lake Success-based ProHealth network of medical practices and other groups, ProHealth Dental said.

At ProHealth Dental’s four Long Island practices and nine others elsewhere in New York and New Jersey, dentists already screen patients for potential heart problems, sleep disorders and more, said Norton L. Travis, the organization’s CEO. They refer patients to medical doctors when appropriate, he said.

"If we can help diagnose a situation and prevent the patient's health from deteriorating, that's what we're all about," Travis said.

At affiliated medical practices, doctors ask patients whether they’re getting regular dental checkups or experiencing any dental problems, and they provide referrals if needed, Travis said.

ProHealth Dental and Catholic Health also are working together on public service announcements and other educational activities, Travis said.

Catholic Health is in preliminary talks about possibly subleasing space to ProHealth Dental, or finding locations where a dental practice could open near a Catholic Health location, Ron Steimel, senior vice president for business development at Catholic Health, said in a statement.

ProHealth Dental plans to open an additional Nassau County practice and two more locations upstate by the end of the year, and more offices next year, Travis said.

Many people get dental checkups twice a year – more often than they go to primary care doctors – so a dental visit can be an opportunity to check for medical problems and educate patients on the connections between periodontal disease and other conditions, Travis said.

"We all want a nice ... bright, white smile and ... straight teeth," Travis said. "But when you start to tell people, ‘but did you know that if you don't floss your teeth and allow yourself to develop periodontal disease, that the incidence of heart disease or stroke or various cancers goes up dramatically,’ you do have a lot of people who understandably say, ‘I didn't know that,’ because it's not generally known to the public."

Research has shown links between oral infections and heart disease, stroke, diabetes and preterm births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There is a correlation between general wellness and dental health," Catholic Health’s president and chief executive officer Dr. Patrick M. O’Shaughnessy said in a statement. The new agreement, he said, "will help more Long Islanders develop and maintain good oral health."

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