Smile is a universal language. It not only reflects your personality and confidence but it also depicts your health behavior and habits. A smile can say volumes about an individual’s oral hygiene, the level of ignorance about oral health, health behaviors and health status. Oral health care is not just limited to teeth but also includes soft tissues in the mouth and throat. American Dental Association along with several other private and government organization is striving hard to create awareness about the importance of oral health among the children and adults.
Oral health is an important public health concern as, nearly 8000 preventable deaths occur per year because of oral cancers, increased health care costs, 164 million lost productivity hours, 51 million lost school hours and nearly 1/4th of the adults (over 65 yrs.) have lost all the teeth, thereby reducing the quality of life.
Comprehensive Dental Reform Act, a part of ACA was introduced in 2012 to address the oral health disparity and to curb the rising health care costs. One of the main feature of this act is the increased emphasis on the preventive oral care. This act has set in a good platform for oral health awareness in children. Many of the organizations in collaboration with school and communities are engaging the kids in interactive oral camps, were in the kids are taught about the importance of visit to dentists, proper brushing techniques, healthy food for teeth, etc.
Preventive oral health awareness is very important among the adults because of the threat of oral cancers. Some of the risk factors of oral cancer are alcohol, tobacco, smoking, HPV infection, immune system suppression, chronic irritation, etc. Oral cancer can start as a small persistent ulcerative condition or chronic inflammatory condition due to a sharp tooth or from a prosthetic restoration or from an injury etc. and 90% of the oral cancers are of malignant form.
Early detection is important as the survival rates for early detection is 86%-90% and for later stages survival rate is just 9%-10%, a drastic difference. Even from treatment aspect, it is way different depending on the detection stage. Earlier detection, treatment is at the site, in mouth but later detection, the treatment include head and neck regions. We can imagine the cost burden, which for detection in early stage is $7000-10,000 and for later stages is > $70,lo000. When preventive care is emphasized, earlier detection of oral cancer is possible. This early detection and treatment can reduce 36% in health care costs.
Public Health officials state that every $1 spent for preventive care, can save $4 in the future treatment and restorations. This means a total of 4 billion dollars can be saved in the oral care costs. Preventive measures are as simple as regular dental visit every 6 months, maintaining oral hygiene and healthy lifestyles. As public health professional we need to encourage and promote the preventive oral care.
Author: Meghana Karchi