In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created its Healthy People 2020 initiative, which sought to improve the overall health of Americans, including their oral health. In the Healthy People 2020 initiative, there were 33 goals for oral health. Many of those goals are being met, but one goal seems to be slipping away.
The CDC hoped to get nearly half of American adults (49%) seeing their dentist every year. Unfortunately, in the five years since the initiative started, the proportion of Americans seeing their dentist dropped from 44.5% to 42.1%.
Goals Already Met
The CDC has already met 16 of its 33 targets for oral health. Here are the goals that were met:
- Children age 3-5 with cavities dropped from 33.3% to 27.9%
- Untreated tooth decay in children age 3-5 dropped from 23.8% to 11.7%
- Children age 6-9 with untreated cavities dropped from 28.8% to 21.5%
- Adolescents age 13-15 with untreated tooth decay decreased from 17.0% to 11.4%
- Adults age 35-44 with untreated tooth decay decreased from 27.8% to 24.9%
- Adults age 65-74 with untreated coronal cavities decreased from 17.1% to 14.8%
- Complete tooth loss in adults age 65-74 decreased from 24.0% to 12.9%
- 34.6% of children and adolescents in poor families saw the dentist, up from 30.2%
- School-based health centers with dental sealants increased from 17.1% to 24.4%
- Those that offered topical fluoride increased from 20.6% to 33.1%
- Those that included dental care increased from 6.4% to 9.1%
- 4.3% of children age 3-5 received dental sealants on teeth, up from 1.4%
- 37.6% of children age 6-9 received dental sealants on permanent molars, up from 25.5%
- 22.2% of teens age 13-15 received dental sealants, up from 19.9%
- 39 states now record cleft lip and cleft palate, up from 35
- 36 states have a referral process for cleft lip and palate treatment, up from 31
This is great progress on these goals. It’s less than half the goals included in the plan, but for a midpoint check in, it seems like the plan is on course.
However, the greatest challenge–and one of the most important goals–may be slipping away.
Why Are Fewer Adults Seeing the Dentist?
There’s only one goal in the CDC’s Healthy People 2020 oral health plan that saw regression. That’s the goal of getting more adults to see their dentist for preventive care at least once a year. With so many areas of the plan going ahead so nicely, why is this one falling behind? There are many reasons why this area is different.
One is the administrative shortcoming of the ACA. The ACA maintains separation between health insurance and dental insurance. Adults don’t receive coverage for dental care under ACA-compliant health insurance plans. Nor are employers mandated to provide dental coverage to employees. Children, however, received mandated coverage. Which, if you look at the list above, is probably part of the reason why so many of the accomplished goals were related to children’s oral health.
Another problem is related to the first. People think that going to the dentist is expensive, so they avoid it. What they don’t realize is that not going to the dentist is actually more expensive.
Finally, fear of the dentist is very common. Most people have some degree of fear of the dentist. Although only a small number of people are so afraid of the dentist that it can serve as the only reason why they don’t get dental care, many people use it as an excuse not to see their dentist this year.
Are You Overdue for Dental Care?
If you are one of the people who hasn’t been to the dentist this year, we invite you to take a positive step for your oral and overall help. We offer comprehensive care, including sedation dentistry to help people overcome dental anxiety.
Please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry in Wichita Falls, TX.