Measuring Health in Quality of Life

1/3 low income adults say they avoid smiling because of their dental issues.
17% have trouble doing usual activities because of the condition of their mouth/teeth.
~1/4 low-income adults say their oral health issues cause them to participate less in social activities.
$1.6 billion, the amount spent on ER dental visits in 2015, is the same as the amount it would cost to add adult dental benefits to Medicaid

Highlights from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute 2015 Oral Health Care System: State-By-State Analysis.

I’m really excited to see that the ADA is starting to track these measures. From the commentary on the report:

[P]olicymakers, and the oral health community more broadly, need to consider reinventing how oral health is defined and measured. The current focus of many government agency data collection efforts is to measure the presence and severity of dental disease and the frequency and type of dental care services people use. There is very little emphasis, in contrast, on measuring the contribution of oral health to physical, social and emotional wellbeing.

I think this is true in the health care community overall and not just within dentistry. Metrics like BMI and blood pressure and hba1c are clinically helpful, and all the time health care providers (myself included!) say things like “If you’re not able to reduce this number below x, it means your likelihood of event/complication y will go up and that’s bad.”

But taking it a step further to quantify how many years of life are lost or days in the hospital gained by a high blood pressure might be helpful for hitting the point home. Show, don’t tell, right?



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