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Pacific Dental, MemorialCare Open Joint Medical Practice

On the first day that Dr. Deepika Dhama opened her new Culver Smiles Dentistry in Irvine, she immediately saw the benefits of sharing an office space with a medical facility.

“This morning, we saw two patients who didn’t have primary care physicians and we sent them across the hall to MemorialCare,” Dhama told the Business Journal.

Culver Smiles Dentistry is the first office of a collaboration between Fountain Valley’s MemorialCare and Pacific Dental Services of Irvine to operate a dental practice in the same office with physicians.

“We are just thrilled that we’ve created the first of its kind between a medical practice and a dental practice,” MemorialCare Chief Executive Barry Arbuckle said at the opening ceremony.

“We can bring together two aspects of healthcare which before haven’t been together very much.”

Win-Win

The venture joins Pacific Dental, which provides back-office services to more than 900 dental offices, with MemorialCare, which has 15,000 employees at 225 care locations, including two hospitals in Orange County.

MemorialCare last May opened its health center, followed by Culver Smiles Dentistry on Dec. 4.

The practices are designed to offer patients easy access under one roof to essential healthcare services, including comprehensive dental care, oral surgery, family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics.

“It’s emotional for me because we’ve been wanting it for some time and it’s happening,” Dhama said. “Our patients don’t have to go anywhere else to seek care.”

MemorialCare’s Arbuckle expects the venture to work well because both Pacific Dental and MemorialCare use the same electronic health records system, made by Verona, Wisc.-based Epic Systems Corp.

The companies said the clinicians can use the system to view patient data, including past dental and medical visits, lab results, and prescriptions, creating a comprehensive picture of a patient’s health for any provider they visit.

“The sharing of electronics records makes it powerful,” Arbuckle said. “We’re focusing on preventive care, which frankly we need more of in this country. For us, this is a win-win proposition, something that is greatly needed in healthcare.”

Cost Reducer

Officials noted that many patients see a dentist more often, one to two times a year, than a general physician.

The dentist might see early indications of problems. In the U.S., about 2 in 5 adults are affected by some form of gum disease, which is one of the earliest warning signs of systemic health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers.

Dental practices are in the process of implementing more health tests such as for blood, DNA and cancers, the officials said.

“We truly believe that the body and mouth are integrated,” Dhama said. “If we can collaborate more together, we can truly offer care to the patient like no one has ever done.”

The facility, located in a former Ace Hardware store in the University Park Center mall along Culver Avenue, near the San Diego (405) Freeway, is the first of 25 that the two partners intend to open in the coming five years.

The combination is gaining interest from the academics, medical and insurance industries, said Arbuckle, who has discussed the idea on a state advisory board that is trying to reduce medical costs.

“They’re wholly unaware of the body-mouth connection because nobody ever talks about it,” Arbuckle said. “It was nothing they had ever heard before. This can help contribute to reducing healthcare costs over the long term.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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