According to a new study conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC), screenings by dentists for the most common chronic medical diseases could save the American healthcare system as much as $102.6 million annually. The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 7.8% of the US population have undiagnosed hypertension, 2.7% have undiagnosed diabetes, and 8.2% have undiagnosed high cholesterol. The ADA report notes that screening for these conditions in dental offices could lead to savings of up to $102.6 million, or $33 per person screened, in addition to healthier outcomes for patients.

“As many as 27 million people visit a dentist but not a physician in a given year,” said Kamyar Nasseh, PhD, lead author of the study. “This presents an opportunity for dentists to be part of an integrated healthcare team working to combat chronic illnesses.”

Nasseh notes there is potential for additional savings over the long term through prevention, health promotion, and early interventions that the study did not model.

“We have long known that the mouth is the window to the body,” said ADA President Charles H. Norman, DDS. “But we have an increased understanding about roles that dentists can play in detecting chronic, systemic disease. This study shows that dentists can contribute to reduced health care costs in the US by screening for chronic conditions.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all American adults suffer from chronic illnesses, which account for more than 75% of healthcare costs and 70% of deaths each year in the United States. What’s more, chronic diseases are estimated to cost the country $153 billion annually in lost productivity.