Delta Dental of Arizona, Banner Health Foundation Expand Oral Care to Southern Arizona

After piloting the program for nearly a year at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, an Age-Friendly Healthcare System recognized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Delta Dental of Arizona and the Banner Health Foundation are pleased to announce the expansion of the Hospital Oral Care and Periodontal Disease Education program protocol to Banner’s 28 acute-care hospitals across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, and Wyoming. 

The expansion will enable all Banner medical centers to implement the oral health protocol, potentially serving up to 300,000 patients each year. It will include expansion across Southern Arizona to the following:

Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, Tucson

Banner – University Medical Center South, Tucson

Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, Casa Grande

University of Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson

Inadequate oral hygiene can lead to devastating disease and a significant loss of quality of life, particularly in the elderly, who represent the largest proportion of hospitalized patients. Bacteria from the oral cavity can travel to the lungs and cause older patients to contract hospital-acquired pneumonia, a serious and potentially fatal infection.

“Our primary goals with this program are to lower hospital-acquired pneumonia and to increase positive patient outcomes,” said Dr. Nimit Agarwal, a geriatrics and internal medicine physician leading the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix and the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. He leads the Center for Healthy Aging at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix and is the program director for the Geriatric Medicine Fellowship. “The simple act of removing the biofilm from teeth with regular toothbrushing can help prevent pneumonia.”

The Banner HOPE program, made possible through generous funding from the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation, creates a means to support patients across hospital units and departments through collaboration with nursing staff and therapists to identify barriers to dental care and facilitate access to proper oral health routines including brushing and flossing. An integral component of the program was the establishment of an oral health navigator at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. 

While the pilot program specifically addressed the brushing and flossing routines of patients aged 65 and older and adults with disabilities, the protocol now being shared across the system is designed to serve all adult patients. The partnership also includes development and delivery of patient oral health care training for nurses and patient care assistants.

“Delta Dental of Arizona is a long-time advocate of increasing collaboration between dental and medical providers to reduce barriers to care. Studies continue to show that Medical-Dental Integration improves positive health outcomes in vulnerable populations, such as seniors and those in need of chronic disease management. The Banner HOPE program directly supports our mission to create a path to better health and wellness and healthier lives for everyone by expanding access to care, advancing health equity through systemic change, and building resilient communities,” said Michael Jones, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona.

“The HOPE program is a shining example of the power of philanthropic investment to fuel innovation at Banner,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, CMO for Banner Health. “This funding allowed us to create a new and unique program to address an unmet need among vulnerable patients. Thanks to these resources, our team has been able to implement the program, collect useful data, and now expand its reach to serve all of our adult patients in six states. This is clearly a strong return on investment, and we are so thankful to Delta Dental Foundation of Arizona for partnering with us on this important initiative.”

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