Willamette Dental Group Blazes a Trail with New Research Study

Dental Group
is not your typical dental company. Focused on homecare
and preventive therapy, treatment is standard across the board. It is a
privately held, accountable-risk bearing entity that provides
individualized treatment programs for more than 400,000 members. With
offices serving more than 50 communities, it is the Northwest’s largest
team of dental healthcare providers.

These reasons, along with many others, set Willamette Dental Group apart
from other dental organizations, making it a prime candidate for
research and study.

This past September, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial
Research (NIDCR) funded
a consortium of nine separate
studies focused on studying the oral
health of children in the United States. One of those studies, “Evaluating
Standardized Preventive Care to Reduce Dental Disparities in Children
will assess the effectiveness of Willamette Dental Group’s tooth decay
prevention program.

Remember the part about Willamette Dental Group being different?

“Willamette Dental Group is leading the country, and the world, in its
scientific-based preventive care model,” said Dr. Joel White, a doctor
of dental surgery and professor in the Department of Preventive and
Restorative Dental Sciences at the University of California, San
Francisco. “It’s exciting to be able to show that what the employees of
Willamette Dental Group do every day is a great job of taking care of
the patients’ needs, and this work will codify that.”

White refers to the NIDCR study, and it’s important to understand why
academic institutions like UCSF, Harvard and the Oregon Health & Science
University are so excited to work with Willamette Dental Group.

“[Willamette Dental Group] has all the components: electronic health
records, dental diagnostic terminology, clinical decision support,
prevention and intervention, treatment, and patient engagement all
wrapped up together,” said White.

Think about your typical obstacle course. You can’t move on to the third
obstacle until you’ve completed the first two. It’s the same idea with
this research study. Willamette Dental Group has implemented many
organizational policies and procedures, which have allowed the company
to grow to where they are now.

“This was the next logical step in a number of things Willamette Dental
Group had already done,” said Beth Mertz, who has a doctorate in medical
sociology and is one of the principal investigators on this study.
“[Willamette Dental Group] has built to the place where we could do
this. If those things had not been in place, this grant would not be

But why is this research important?

“Everybody knows if you have a broken tooth, you can go to the dentist
and get it fixed, but does that make you healthier? Are you better in
the long term because you got that tooth fixed?” said Mertz.

Mertz, a UCSF researcher for 18 years and professor for the last six,
said the study will allow researchers to look at the entire process of
oral hygiene and care, including everything from daily flossing to
annual cleanings to x-rays. This review will enable them to understand
the extent to which Willamette Dental Group’s treatment model and
practice philosophy produces healthy patients.

The study will be a multi-institutional effort. At least six different
organizations and dozens of researchers and participants are teaming up
to devote their time and effort to this study, which is scheduled to
last until 2018.

“This is pretty complex. It’s got patient health records, cost and cost
benefit, patient interviews… and policy analysis. There’s no single
individual who could do what we’re doing, so that’s why we have this
team,” said Mertz.

Dr. Eugene Skourtes, the president and CEO of Willamette Dental Group,
is excited about this study and feels it’s been a long time coming. He
said the focus is to look at children who are commercially insured and
children who are insured through the Oregon Health Plan and see whether
or not his company can reduce the gap in disease that currently exists
between the two.

“That’s what this study is going to show: Can we eliminate the
disparities and can we make them healthier?” said Skourtes. “So, what’s
that going to do for Willamette Dental Group? If we can get valid data
to support that that’s happening, it’ll prove to the world that our
model of dentistry should be performed, and if you come to Willamette,
we can make you healthier.”

With exceptional people like Skourtes, Mertz and White at the helm,
Willamette Dental Group and its research partners are sailing into
uncharted waters as this study gets under way. Many have high
expectations and are enthusiastic for promising results.

Most important of all is the role studies like this will play in
Willamette Dental Group’s ability to partner with its patients in
delivering proactive dental care through evidence-based methods of
prevention and treatment.

About Willamette Dental Group

Headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon, Willamette
Dental Group
has been providing high-quality dentistry for more than
45 years. We are the largest multi-specialty group dental practice in
the Northwest and operate more than 50 dental office locations
throughout Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, serving more than 400,000
patients. Our unique approach delivers proactive preventive dental care
focused on promoting long-term health through a partnership with our


Willamette Dental Group
John Farmer, 503-952-2501
Communications Specialist
Cell: 971-330-1504