LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — June is known as Oral Health month. It’s a time to raise awareness of the critical connection between your mouth and your overall health.
Results of a new study show regular visits to a dentist can not only prevent more serious health issues, but save you money in the long run.
Dentist Dr. Solomon Brotman worked on the study, along with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, The Mayo Clinic, and Life and Specialty Ventures of Little Rock.
The team surveyed Arkansans on their yearly visits to a dental clinic.
Dr. Brotman said the findings show that taking advantage of a dental plan through your employer or even paying out of pocket for a cleaning can save Arkansans hundreds or even thousands of dollars by stopping a mouth disease before it spreads into a systemic problem.
“The way that people stay healthier is by having dental cleanings regularly. We’re hoping that Arkansans recognize that this study was done based on the health care of their neighbors and that the research applies to Arkansans more than any other state," he said.
The researchers went into the study knowing that, according to the Arkansas Department of Health, the state’s population ranks 49th in the percentage of adults who received preventative dental care in 2018.
There are several barriers that keep people from visiting a dentist, Dr. Brotman said, adding “The biggest barrier is the upfront costs. Then, some people are scared of the dentist. Patients who are worried that their mouths are too far gone, and it’s rare that they are, we can treat things now that we couldn’t treat a generation ago.”
For people who have no choice but to go without dental insurance or simply can’t afford to pay for a cleaning, Dr. Brotman said other reliable methods of care include brushing and flossing, drinking fluoridated water or using a fluoride toothpaste, and avoiding sticky, sugary foods, tobacco, and alcohol.
Dr. Brotman said he hopes more employers will see the value in offering workers a dental insurance plan because the study shows actual quantitative savings. He says insurance companies would likely pay far less for preventative oral health than they would if a mouth illness leads to a bacterial infection that spreads.
He summarized the study results by saying, “Our takeaway is that if you have your teeth cleaned, you can stay out of the hospital and be healthier.”
The findings also show greater savings possible for people who have pre-existing conditions such as coronary artery disease or diabetes.