The Future of Oral Health is Just as Close as it is Far
It’s hard to surprise today’s patients as they are becoming more familiar with the latest health-tech gadgets, such as at-home LED whitening kits, AI-powered toothbrushes, and smile aligners made by 3D printers. This tech-saturated environment makes many of us think that being able to Facetime with our dentist or use Alexa to schedule a same-day appointment is right around the corner. Is it?
Well, the reality is that the future of health is just as close as it is far. While people seem to be increasingly more health-conscious, and we see new and emerging solutions that advance the way care is delivered (including teledentistry), we are actually in the midst of an oral health crisis. Our current health care system fails to address barriers faced by millions of Americans in obtaining preventive oral health care and treatment. DentaQuest’s recent research indicates that most people in the U.S. rate oral health as a top health concern, while more than half of those respondents consider the oral health system scary, confusing, inconvenient, or ineffective.
Approximately 74 million Americans do not have access to oral health care – that's nearly twice the number of people without health insurance. High cost, lack of insurance, and distance from dental providers are among the most common barriers people face in receiving proper oral care.
If you get a dental check-up once a year, you’re in the minority. The result? By age 34, more than 80 percent of people in the U.S. have had at least one cavity, and within the past five years more than 40 percent of adults reported suffering from mouth pain. What’s worse – people who don’t receive the oral care they need are more likely to suffer from other diseases:
- 29% are more likely to have diabetes;
- 50% are more likely to have osteoporosis;
- 67% are more likely to have heart disease.
…so you see my concern. The widening oral health care gap in America’s communities is causing the decay of our nation’s overall health. And these rising chronic conditions represent a major burden on the cost of health care in this country.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The solution is to be laser-focused on prevention, increase collaboration between medicine and dentistry, and to have a model that pays for health outcomes rather than the volume of services. Of course, technology-driven innovation holds the potential to improve our understanding of patients’ care and needs. Innovation can help to transform the delivery of services and make patients the designers of their own health through more convenient, interactive, and personalized experiences. Which, ultimately, makes oral health better for all.
And, by extension, makes us all healthier.
I've recently developed a 15-minute talk on the Future of Oral Health. If you'd like to hear more about that - or schedule a presentation - please reach out via email to DentaQuest's Communications Team