15:56 PM

Oral Health is Now a Leading Health Indicator

By Steve Pollock, President, DentaQuest

At the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced three new categories of Leading Health Indicators for the Healthy People 2020 campaign. The good news is oral health has been identified as a Leading Health Indicator category…finally.

Healthy People 2020 identified 17 oral health goals -- from reducing the rate of dental caries in the primary and permanent teeth of children and adolescents – to increasing the number of children, adolescents and adults who use the oral healthcare system.

HHS named Oral Health a Leading Health Indicator because it is a critical health issue that, if left unaddressed, could result in future public health problems. DentaQuest could not agree more.

Everything we do is focused on our singular mission to improve oral health. Our PreventistrySM philosophy ensures a unique focus on prevention, disease management, quality care, and cost effective benefit program administration, and recognizes and supports the important provider-patient relationship in achieving good oral health. Our DentaQuest Institute isolates areas where we know there is a better way to prevent and manage oral disease, and works to make new and proven dental therapies routinely available in the dental office. Historically, new evidence-based care learnings take years to become accepted and practiced in the dental office setting, and the Institute is working to change that. Our DentaQuest Foundation is driving a grassroots movement across the nation to improve oral health with its Oral Health 2014 Initiative, awarding 20 state organizations funding and resources to reduce oral health disparities, one of the biggest cost drivers in the American health care system.

We are committed to our mission and intent on setting goals and measuring our success against them. We’re working on that. But with Healthy People 2020’s designation of oral health as a Leading Health Indicator, our ability to affect our mission takes a major step forward. With the endorsement of HHS and the power of Healthy People 2020 focused on oral health improvement, much will be done to prevent oral disease. Our population will be healthier and our state and national health care systems will see costs go down. Without good oral health, it’s impossible to enjoy good overall health.

Oral diseases are almost 100% preventable. With the right focus and resources, oral disease is one chronic health problem that we can target and eliminate – in our lifetime. I am convinced that with a coordinated system of collaboration and persistence, oral diseases can become a thing of the past.