In Healthcare, Why is Oral Health in a Class of Its Own?

November 10, 2017


Dentists universally agree that a dental checkup at least twice a year is essential to maintaining oral health for every person. Yet, many Americans go years, maybe a lifetime, without visiting a dentist. Estimates show that only 17 percent of individuals go to the dentist the recommended amount. Part of this disparity can be attributed to an overall lack of dental coverage and rising out-of-pocket costs.

Still, dental care remains an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, but how are people accounting for oral health in spite of an overall lack of coverage?

Dental coverage is not required by law

If oral health is so important then why do so many Americans go without regular care? Part of this lapse in care can be attributed to the politics of healthcare.

Unlike health insurance, employers are not legally required to offer dental coverage. Ever since the Affordable Care Act was put in effect in 2010, employers with staff of 50+ are required by federal law to offer health insurance. This employer mandate does not apply to dental insurance, so oral health is not legally legitimized in the same way as other healthcare.

"Estimates show that only 17 percent of individuals go to the dentist the recommended amount. Part of this disparity can be attributed to an overall lack of dental coverage and rising out-of-pocket costs."

Many large companies opt to offer dental insurance as a recruitment perk. Over 90 percent of large organizations offer dental insurance, but that figure decreases drastically when it comes to mid-sized and small companies. For many that work locally or are self-employed, dental insurance is just not in the budget. Across the board, only 50 percent of companies in America offer dental insurance to employees, and yet 100 percent of people need dental care.

Part of this discrepancy can be attributed to a lack of legal enforcement, but we as individuals must take on part of the blame too.

Out of sight, out of mind?

At the end of the day, individuals must take responsibility for their own health, but dental care often takes a backseat to other medical concerns. Dental issues are a lot less evident than other health concerns, and as a result many go untreated. For example, a rash is immediately noticeable to you and anyone around you, but an aching tooth might be less pressing because it only occurs occasionally and can be easier to ignore.

Society has framed dental care as a comfort not a priority, which is not only harmful to our mouths but also overall health. During a regular check up, dentists can discover an array of health issues unrelated to your mouth. In fact, one study suggests as many as 40 percent of the patients diagnosed with serious gum disease have another chronic health condition related to it. A dentist can gain insight into your overall health and uncover illnesses during a checkup such as:

  • Immunodeficiency (including numerous autoimmune disorders like HIV/AIDS, Lupus and ITP)
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis (and similar conditions affecting bone density)
  • Cardiovascular disease (the #1 killer in the United States)
  • High blood pressure
  • GERD and acid reflux
  • Anemia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

There is a misunderstanding that dental care is a “nice to have” luxury rather than a “must have” feature of everyday life. In reality, oral health is even more crucial than other areas of medicine because it is interwoven into every other body system. Put simply, oral health is the crux of overall health.

Due to cost, unavailability as an employee benefit and social misunderstanding, oral health can be overlooked — to the major detriment of individual health. Dental health is actually on the top of the food chain in terms of medical importance, and should be treated as such — but finances get in the way.

Luckily, there is a way to prioritize oral health without breaking the bank. Many people are finding that investing in alternatives to traditional dental insurance, such as dental discount programs, is how to have your cake, eat it too, while still avoiding cavities.

Contact Dental Solutions to learn how a dental discount card can save you between 20 percent to 50 percent on regular checkups, cleaning, fillings and more, and how to give oral health the priority it warrants at an affordable rate.

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