Poor oral health has a direct link to high risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It contributes to depression, poor maternal health outcomes, and death. Research shows that it increased the risk associated with COVID-19.

Yet we treat oral health as being separate from “healthcare”. 65 million Americans lack dental coverage and even Medicare provides no oral health benefits to our seniors.  Worse yet, this lack of coverage contributes to healthcare disparities as black adults are nearly seven times more likely to have an unmet dental need than white adults.

But where there are problems there are opportunities. Today we’re talking with Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, an MD, MBA, community health champion, and the President and CEO of the newly formed CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. Myechia shares with us how her role as the head of a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) helped her see the gaps in our system and the extraordinary benefits of integrating oral health into primary care delivery. Better yet, those benefits extend far beyond a moral imperative. There is a clear business case for integrating oral health in a holistic health delivery system. Myechia breaks it all down for us, plus much more including:

  • Why oral health has been treated separately from healthcare.
  • How oral health integration compares to behavioral health integration, which is already leading to improved outcomes and lower overall costs.
  • What drove Myechia to focus all her energies on oral health integration.
  • The many ways CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is moving the needle including grants, research, innovation, and social impact investing.
  • How entrepreneurs and startups can work with CareQuest and why they will be launching the CareQuest Innovation Partners initiative to drive this.
  • The need for teledentistry.
  • The ways oral health and the COVID crisis have impacted one another.
  • How ACOs, Direct Contracting Entities, and other risk-bearing organizations can benefit from oral health integration.
  • The opportunity for dentists to rethink their own practice and begin to support primary care (and get reimbursed for it).
  • How to foster relationships between dentists and primary care providers.
  • Plus, we discuss The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund (NCF).

Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA

Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, serves as the president and CEO of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. A physician and business executive, Myechia leads a dynamic team of professional and clinical experts committed to building a future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health.

Through Myechia’s leadership, CareQuest Institute operates as a catalyst for systems change, bringing forth ideas and solutions to create a more equitable, accessible, and integrated health system for everyone. CareQuest Institute collaborates with a wide range of partners to achieve its mission — to improve the oral health of all — through work in grantmaking, research, health improvement programs, policy and advocacy, and education, as well as leadership in dental benefits, care delivery, and innovation advancements.

Myechia also continues to shine a national spotlight on the importance of ending deep social inequity. In 2020, Myechia joined 18 other Black and Brown executives in Massachusetts as a founding leader of The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund (NCF) to provide philanthropic support to community groups and coalitions fighting systemic racism and racial inequity in the Commonwealth. Originally seeded with $20 million, the NCF aims to raise $100 million.

Before joining CareQuest Institute, Myechia served as chief medical officer and CEO of the Dimock Center, one of the largest community health centers in Massachusetts. During Myechia’s tenure, Dimock was recognized as a national model for comprehensive, integrated health and human services. As CEO, Myechia formed partnerships with world-class institutions to advance person-centered care, including Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Partners HealthCare. Prior to Dimock, Myechia worked for Johns Hopkins Medicine as an attending physician and instructor of medicine.

Myechia also invests personal time in her community, serving on several boards and committees, including BlueShield of California, The Boston Foundation, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Previously, she held appointed positions for influential agencies, including the Massachusetts Health Planning Council Advisory Committee and the City of Boston Public Health Commission.

Myechia earned her doctor of medicine degree from Brown University School of Medicine and a master of business administration degree from the Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business. She also received honorary doctorates from Northeastern University and Newbury College.

About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in grantmaking, research, health improvement programs, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits, care delivery, and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone. To learn more, visit carequest.org.  

Additional Resources and Links

  • Research Report: A Coming Surge in Oral Health Treatment Needs
    • CareQuest Institute is set to release a series of reports in the coming months that provide in-depth analysis of the results of a comprehensive national survey aimed at understanding oral health equity in the US. They released their first report earlier in April that looks specifically at the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our oral health and overall health systems.   
    • Key findings:
      • Roughly 6 million adult Americans have lost their dental insurance due to the pandemic  
      • Nearly two-thirds of them have a symptom that is frequently linked to oral diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.   
      • Many others have canceled or put off important preventive care in the last year – 28 million people have delayed care because of concerns ranging from cost and lacking insurance to risk of exposure to the virus.    
      • The data also reinforces what became very clear early on in the pandemic: low-income individuals, those living in rural areas, and families and communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by this virus. In fact, 60% of Black respondents said they knew someone personally who has died from COVID-19. Across all demographic groups, the higher a respondent’s income level the less likely they were to know someone who has died from COVID-19.   
  • Additional statistics on inequities in oral health care  
    • Poor oral health has a direct link to higher risks of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and more. It also leads to greater instances of depression and other mental health diseases.     
    • Over 65 million Americans lack access to dental coverage prior to the pandemic, four times the number of people who are medically uninsured.   
    • Americans in poverty are 2.5 times more likely to have an unmet dental need due to lack of insurance. Black adults are 68% more likely to have an unmet dental need than white adults.   
    • Nearly 4 in 10 Black and Latino adults reside in 14 states where Medicaid’s adult dental benefits cover no services or emergency-only care.   

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