How many of you are fighting the good fight to keep patients from waiting to set up an appointment until an oral health issue has already festered into a serious problem? Or have perfected your “going to the dentist twice a year isn’t a replacement for good home dental care” spiel? Do you wish more people understood the depth of the connection between oral and systemic health? Have you ever wondered about the effect of oral healthcare on the economy? If you’re out there nodding to any or all of these questions then the Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait® campaign is for you.
Have you heard of it? It’s a campaign founded by the Dental Trade Alliance based on a study of the economic effect of oral healthcare and how proactive oral healthcare can save the billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year (“An Unexpected Strategy,” 2017). It’s an eye-opening study that puts into perspective how waiting to worry about oral health until it becomes a problem isn’t only a problem for personal systemic health but a significant national expense that doesn’t need to be there. In fact, on average in 2014 one in every six dollars went to healthcare costs, making the U.S. by far the most “expensive country in the world in which to get sick” (“An Unexpected Strategy,” 2017).
If those facts aren’t staggering enough, the DTA relied on a study by United Concordia led by Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat on the connection between dental care and medical savings for different medical issues—type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary artery disease (CAD). She and her team analyzed more than 330,000 insurance records and found that when individuals living with one of the three abovementioned conditions received treatment for gum disease, their medical costs and hospital visits generally decreased—leaving some individuals with calculated savings nearing $6,000 per year or roughly $74 billion total for all those living with one of these conditions (“An Unexpected Strategy,” 2017).
And the savings from dental care don’t only apply to these conditions. This study also took into account how good oral healthcare could result in decreased healthcare costs during pregnancy, in individuals with lung disease, by lowering instances of advanced oral cancer, and even just in emergency room visits (treating oral problems before they become emergencies). And this list goes on.
With the Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait campaign the DTA is on a mission to prove to any lingering doubters that putting off oral healthcare isn’t a sustainable practice. And for those who may find themselves still clinging to the belief that oral health isn’t as important as systemic health, seeing the positive effect it could have on the economy—and even their own wallets—might just be enough to sway them.
This leads to a “spend now, save later” mentality that—while maybe difficult for some to swallow at first—really does make personal and economic sense. Preventive treatment over time is a small cost compared to extensive procedures requiring a lot of time and resources. Take the time to talk with patients and educate potential patients about the benefits of preventing problems versus treating them—both to their finances and to their overall health. Take the results of this 2004 study as an example; the study showed a link between early preventive care in children (starting at 12 months) with later preventive care instead of restorative or emergency care, which resulted in the dental care costs of children given preventive treatment at one year being about half of what they would be if care wasn’t started until age four (“An Unexpected Strategy,” 2017).
With the backing of the DTA now is the time to make the push for a greater emphasis on oral health as an integral part of healthcare and the economy. Don’t wait to start the conversation with patients. The DTA is providing graphics for you to share in your office and across social media that plainly explain the why oral healthcare can’t wait. (Find them here!)
You can help contribute to a healthier population and economy by demonstrating the proven link between oral and systemic health. Don’t wait to help the cause. Join the DTA and start making a positive difference in your community with the Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait campaign today!