22 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • FEBRUARY 2019
PROHEALTH DENTAL CEO NORTON L. TRAVIS
ADVANCI NG THE NEEDLE
BY JIM BERNSTEIN
Norton L. Travis is chief executive
officer of ProHealth Dental, which operates
multispeciality dental offices
on Long Island and in Queens, New
Jersey, and Westchester County. Its
mission is to promote the importance
of oral health as an important element
of overall health. Travis worked as a
lawyer, specializing in health care,
for more than 25 years before assuming
his current position in December
2015. He was also project coordinator
and a consultant for the New York
Proton Center. a cancer care center
in Harlem, for which he helped raise
$350 million. This conversation has
been edited and condensed.
How do you define ProHealth-
Dental? Well, let’s start with just
ProHealth. ProHealth is a large, physician
driven organization that provides
a full range of health services.
Three years ago, there was a decision
made that ProHealth should also provide
dental services. ProHealth Dental
is a separate organization from
ProHealth, but our business model
revolves around treating a person’s
whole health. At ProHealthDental,
we are all about attaching the mouth
back to the body so we can provide
What’s meant by “attaching the
mouth back to the body?” Taking
proper care of the mouth has an
enormous effect on someone’s overall
health. Our model also calls for us to
educate the public about oral health.
But you do treat cavities, right?
Yes, of course. If you look at a lot of
dental practices, they are a lot about
dental cosmetics. We do that, too. But
we want to be the kind of dental office
where people learn to lead healthy
lives. It’s astonishing how many people
on all socioeconomic levels are
not leading healthy lives.
What’s the problem with getting
people to do that? It’s first of all convincing
them to see a dentist. Many
people have a fear of dentists. The difficulty
is also the way the healthcare
system is set up. There is little, if
any, insurance coverage for dental
care. People seem to think there is
little connection between overall
health and dental care. The Harvard
School of Dental Medicine is one of
the few in the country breaking down
the chasm between dentistry and
medicine. They are very definitely
connected. We have developed a clinical
affiliation with ProHealth. We can
coordinate care. It’s a proven fact that
poor dental care has a major effect on
people with cardiac problems, obesity
and sleep apnea.
So how do you coordinate with
ProHealth? We start at the intake
process. We provide the latest technology
to detect oral cancer. We …
ask patients about possible sleep
disorders. We do blood-pressure
screening. We ask patients if they
have a primary-care physician. We
don’t just look in a patient’s mouth.
If there is going to be a germ of some
type in a person’s body, it’s going to be
seen in an oral examination.
Can you give us an example how
the coordination works? Well, there
is a pediatrician’s office across the
hall from us. One of the pediatricians
saw something in a child’s mouth that
concerned her. Her office asked us if
we could see the child in our office.
One of our dentists said, No. I will be
over there in a second. And she was.
Why don’t all dentists adopt the
same whole-health methods you
do? It starts in the medical schools.
Other than at Harvard Dental School,
they don’t teach a lot about overall
health. The problem is also exacerbated
by the insurance companies.
People seem to feel that, if there is
limited dental coverage, dental issues
can’t be all that important. We are
working with Medicare to try and
convince the federal government to
cover periodontal disease. Studies
show that if Medicare covered periodontal
disease, less money would
have to be spent later treating the
conditions that result from periodontal
Why do you think there is such
little coverage for dental treatment?
It’s historical. Remember, people used
to get their teeth taken care of by
barbers, who pulled teeth out with
a string. People still seem to feel the
mouth is not connected to the rest of
Do you think your model is catching
on? It’s just starting to evolve.
Throughout the country, there are
only a handful of other practices
doing all of this. For us, there always
has to be a mission. We believe we can
run a successful practice and do good
at the same time. We believe we are
advancing the needle.
Norton Travis, CEO of ProHealth, is focused on treating patients' whole
"We believe we can run a successful practice and do
good at the same time."