There was a sobering headline on Bloomberg last week:
According to the latest statistics, we now spend nearly $10,000 on healthcare per person each year, yet our life expectancy is far lower than dozens of other developed nations. We’re number one in the world in spending, yet 27th in terms of life expectancy, just below Chile and just ahead of the Czech Republic.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons for the out-of-control spending – Big Pharma, the insurance companies, a tendency in conventional medicine to overdiagnose and overtreat – but one of the often overlooked reasons for the worse health is the ongoing divorce of mouth and body.
Yet oral health is a reflection of overall health, and vice versa. Problems in the mouth can have systemic effects. Problems elsewhere in the body can take their toll on the health of the gums and teeth.
The weird split between dentistry and medicine is documented nicely in Mary Otto’s recent book Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America. Though it hews close to the party line of conventional dentistry, its history of how we got to this point is invaluable. You can read an excerpt from the book here (or listen to an interview with the author here).
Now there’s a documentary film that looks at the oral health crisis within the prism of our larger issues with the current American healthcare system – a system many refer to more appropriately as “sick care.” Say Ahh illustrates how, by taking a proactive approach to healthcare, we can arrest the decline in our health, saving billions of dollars and millions of lives.