Institute for Oral Health Dentist with Senior Patient



2009: Defining Quality in Oral Health Care

A critical factor in America's current health care crisis is that millions of people are unable to access or afford quality dental care. The dental industry needs to move forward in changing that by identifying ways to improve delivery and partner with all other health care stakeholders to ensure effective, patient-centered care.

Institute for Oral Health took on this challenge, bringing together dental industry experts in focus groups and at the 2009 IOH national conference (in San Jose, CA) to share solutions and strategies for improving dental care quality, including:

"The purpose of collecting data is to actually see what dentists do when they say a patient is high risk, and what services they provide. We can then build plans that match what providers are doing –and hopefully help support better outcomes."

– Dr. Ron Inge
IOH Executive Director

  • Best practices and clinical guidelines for evidence-based dentistry and dental data tracking
  • Oral health quality metrics focused on multiple dimensions
    of outcomes; and measures developed by Delta Dental
  • Highly successful models for transforming patient safety,
    care quality, and health outcomes
  • VA Office of Dentistry's Oral Health Quality measures and prevention models
  • Strategies for promoting health literacy to improve patient outcomes
  • Models for motivating and managing change at the practice level and across the dental profession

Calls to Action

  • Start the discussion for quality and change — The dental profession needs to rally toward a commitment to improving quality. Everyone needs to start collecting the data that helps create reliable evidence-based guidelines to drive improvements in treatment strategies, plan policies, and patient outcomes.
  • Make it personal – bring empathy into patient-centered care — All care providers should take time to talk with family or friends who have experienced the healthcare system for a serious need. It's important for us to really hear the patient perspective and look at ways to improve that experience.
  • Motivate provider behavior changes by introducing benchmarks in stages — As people are often resistant to change, we can help inspire cooperation by gathering data and inviting providers to be part of the process in defining benchmarks. Encourage their feedback, show them how they compare to others in their community, and provide them with the tools to implement positive changes.
  • Sell people on the value proposition to encourage lifestyle behavior changes — Whether it's with patients or large organizations, an effective way to motivate behavioral changes is to present a compelling, cost-effective alternative. For example, encourage patients to adopt healthier lifestyle habits by helping them see the cost savings that comes from fewer dental and doctor visits, fewer prescriptions, less time off work from illness, etc.