The Most Innovative and Impactful Developments in Access to Oral Health
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“In some states, including Oregon and California, elderly patients who can’t drive or are too ill to visit a dentist can get care from a dental hygienist at home.” pg 28
Scientific America Custom Media Group, in collaboration with Colgate takes a closer look at the future of oral health, global challenges, advances, and new technology. Review by Robin Roderick, RDH, BSDH, MSDH This special issue takes a look at the future of oral health globally, providing a 200-year global review of dentistry, its historical divide with evidence-based medicine, and the growing awareness of oral health and total health. This issue conveys insight to how oral medicine is now infused with technology such as smart toothbrushes, smart phone scanning, nanobots, teladentistry, and even fairytale children’s phone apps to promote brushing. Furthermore, it supplies a global snapshot of the tooth decay, missing and filled teeth among 12-year-olds between 1994 through 2014, in addition to facts and statistics regarding oral health around the world, stating the cost of dental disease in 2010 worldwide was a staggering $298 billion. Likewise, author Heger, reviews how empowered consumers/patients have affected dentistry. She examines the diverse set of differing needs such as older patients living longer with natural teeth, people living in rural areas without access, growing underserved populations, and the “uberization of dental care” (page 21) by Millennials who demand more convenience with less loyalty. However, even with all this technology, dental disease remains a global crisis affecting 60 to 90 percent of schoolchildren and nearly all adults (World Health Organization, Morad, page 25). Morad addresses the aging baby boomer population, stating “one-fifth of people over 75 haven’t seen a dentist in five years, and globally, almost a third of people aged 65 to 74 have none of their original teeth” (page 28). Concluding that a team approach is needed with further attention on prevention by urging policymakers to re-evaluate the oral systemic connection.  Although innovations continue to improve dentistry and oral care has been at the forefront, this issue demonstrates the challenges ahead to improve the state of oral health around the world and the important role dental hygienists have as an established workforce. Thankfully, Washington State is one of the 39 states that allow dental hygienists to initiate care in alternative settings without the presence of a dentist (ADHA, 2016) and the ADHP demonstrates this successful model (1). Oral health and the connection with prevention has evolved, a new and irreversible development has come. The magic moment is now; a tipping point and through collaboration with an already skilled and ready workforce, Washington State can be the leaders in making a difference in oral health and prevention by supporting a ready and available workforce of over 4,000 licensed dental hygienists who have graduated from dental hygiene programs with Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Expanding the scope of practice for this skilled workforce is one solution that could be implemented swiftly and would demonstrate action by legislatures to their constituents of Washington State. Read more and download your copy here.