WEST ALLIS, WIS., Feb. 21, 2014 – The Wisconsin Dental Association’s new Own Your Smile oral health literacy and public awareness campaign aims to motivate adults to make good oral health a priority and to seek affordable, preventive care in member dentists’ practices for long-term value, regardless if they have dental insurance.    

Research conducted by the American Dental Association Health Policy Resources Center shows adult dental care spending remained flat through 2012 over the prior year and has not rebounded as other sectors have in the post-recession recovery.

In a recent statewide survey, 75 percent of Wisconsin adults 18 and older said regular dental exams and cleanings by a dentist are “important” to “very important” for controlling dental costs.

Seventy-five percent of survey respondents also felt having dental insurance was “important” to “very important” for affording regular dental exams and cleanings.

“It’s a fact that preventive care and early treatment of dental disease saves individuals pain, dollars and time in the dental chair over the long term,” WDA President Dr. Julio Rodriguez, a general dentist in Brodhead, says.

“And, having a dental home strengthens the doctor-patient relationship which encourages regular preventive checkups and continuity of care,” he adds.

On average over a 12-month period in Wisconsin, it costs an established, adult patient $26 per month (2013 Schenck Dental Fee Survey) for two routine cleanings and dental exams and one set of X-rays — necessary for comprehensive and accurate dental diagnosis. This compares to an average, monthly cellphone bill expenditure of $63 per month (2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey).

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Oral Health Program reports that in 2010, more than 27,860 patient visits to hospital emergency rooms statewide were for non-traumatic dental complaints. The average cost per ER dental-related visit was $420.

Unfortunately, ER treatments only provide temporary relief. An individual must still seek care from a licensed dentist for treatment of the underlying cause and good dental health over the long term.

The cost of dental treatment increased just 2.3 percent from 2010 to 2012 or less than the cost of all consumer goods (2.6 percent), medical care (3.5 percent), hospital services (5.2 percent), prescription drugs (3.9 percent) and physician services (2.4 percent) according to the ADA Health Policy Resources Center

Research Brief titled “Financial Barriers to Dental Care Declining after a Decade of Steady Increase”.

Not reflected in these hard dollar costs is the fact that the U.S. Surgeon General reports adults with poor

oral health lose an estimated 164 million work hours every year in the United States.

 “Dentists want to help patients make their oral health a priority, so ask about treatment and payment options. Many people mistakenly think you need dental insurance to access services in a dental office and that simply isn’t true,” Rodriguez says.

The WDA Own Your Smile campaign will run through 2016. It kicked off in January with a 30-second television spot that illustrates how regular, preventive dental care is an affordable choice for most people when they choose to make their oral health a priority. And, that it makes long-term financial sense for individuals to invest in their oral health by seeing a dentist regularly, regardless if they have dental insurance or not.

Visit WDA.org to learn more about choosing a dental home, the importance of health histories and steps everyone can take to enjoy a lifetime of good oral health.