The US dental industry is booming. It’s worth $120 billion dollars. Multiple technologies are making dental care more much more effective. This is great news. People are getting better implants, stronger restorations, finer diagnostics, you name it. We are able to do much more today than in the past.
But… only the people who actually make their way into the chair on a regular basis are getting the good, albeit expensive, results. The problem is that most of us never make it routinely, and a large pocket of us wait until the last moment where an issue that seemed cosmetic or low priority becomes REALLY painful.
So, if we look ACROSS America, regardless of innovations so far, the actual statistics on dental health continue to remain poor.
Here is how poor they actually are:
Over 80% of Americans have gingivitis, a preventable condition which causes our gums to swell and bleed and for us to walk around with open wounds as we eat, speak, kiss our loved ones, bite our finger nails, etc.
Our mouths have over 500 species of bacteria, which can enter the bloodstream through these wounds and cause damage over time to our pancreas, heart, lungs, immune system, and even unborn children. Remember, your mouth is the largest funnel for intake of all the harmful parasites in your environment.
It’s much more serious than the bad breath you can smell. Regular dental hygiene has been statistically shown to add 6.5 years to your life.
Given these risks, why aren’t we going?
Two key reasons: price and availability.
Dental costs have been rising at over 3x the rate of inflation (5.6% a year). The price of a simple routine cleaning that we all need every 6 months or more, is higher in major cities than the weekly food budget for a family of four. The $150 average doesn’t even include the x-rays. This means that for a family of four on an annual basis basic dental care costs over $1000.
Insurance should help, but 50% of us don’t have it for dental, and 30% of those lucky insured people don’t even show up. Fear of sharp objects aside – it’s pure math. Insured Americans generally work full time, and the average full-time worker in America works 47 hours a week. That’s a lot. And the average American dental office is open for 33 hours a week. Guess how much those hours overlap? A ton. We don’t have time to leave work. So even the insured are going far less than 2x a year. I haven’t even mentioned the uninsured, 50% of which aren’t showing up to get the care they need.
As a result, 1 in 6 Americans experienced an expensive dental emergency in the last year, and the health risks continue.
The vicious cycle isn’t going to be fixed by a new kind of toothbrush, a better x-ray machine or Invisalign. It’s going to require a huge shift in usable supply – hours that suit our lifestyle, prices that don’t break the bank, awareness of how bad it really is and how difficult it shouldn’t be to get the preventative dental care you need.