My colleague Stef Kotsonis stops me in the hall at work every few weeks with a new pearl of health care wisdom. Last week, it began with the story of three teeth that had to come out.
“I’m getting implants put in, dental implants,” Kotsonis explains, an index finger pulling back his lower lip. “Two down here, bottom left, and one up here.”
He pauses to grin.
“So when they tell you to chew on the other side, it’s a much more subtle dance than that.” Kotsonis is giggling now. “There’s a foxtrot going on at meal time.”
Paying to fix the problem is no laughing matter.
“Our dental plans are awful compared to our health plans,” Kotsonis says. “I’m paying thousands of dollars for these [implants]. It’s, boy, it’s breaking the family bank.”
Kotsonis is also worried about the lack of coordination between his primary care physician and dentist.
“My own doctor has no idea what’s going on in my dentist’s office,” Kotsonis says. “She doesn’t know if I’m having implants, she doesn’t know if I’m being given these antibiotics, she doesn’t know if these antibiotics clash with anything else she’s doing. And it just seems to me that this is exactly the sort of thing, in this information age, that should be shared.”
How did this happen, this decision to treat the teeth and gums separate from the rest of the body? There is lots of proof that poor oral health is tied to heart disease, diabetes, HIV and can lead to death. So why, in this era of integrated medicine, do we continue to carve out the teeth? And is anyone trying to put them back?