We all know how crazy-high healthcare spending is here in the US. We spend far more than any other country in the world. More than 16% of our GDP goes to healthcare. We spend over $8700 per person, per year. Most other countries spend less than $1000.
Yet according to National Research Council and Institute of Medicine data, we live comparatively shorter, sicker lives.
And still spending continues to climb. A new report from the California HealthCare Foundation projects that it will cross the $10K threshold this year. Total annual spending is expected to hit $5.1 trillion by 2023.
Sure, you say. What else is new?
Well, the report also provided a breakdown of how our healthcare dollars are spent. Medical care – physicians, hospitals, drugs – takes 61% of them. Dental services?
Four percent. And most of that is out-of-pocket. While most Americans now have medical insurance, only 60% have some form of dental coverage. Even then, the typical plan doesn’t cover everything.
Of course, you’d expect dental expenditures to be less. Medical care encompasses the whole body. Conventional dentistry deals with just a small part: the mouth.
But in reality, oral conditions can and do have systemic effects, influencing overall health.
Consider the link between periodontal disease and systemic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. We’ve actually known about the perio-heart disease link since at least the 1960s. Only recently has it begun to get more attention. Happily, it’s no longer rare to see media coverage – such as this recent post – on how taking care of your teeth and gums supports your overall health.
Dental conditions such as mercury amalgam fillings, infected root canal teeth and cavitations have likewise been shown to play a role in all manner of systemic illnesses – from autoimmune disorders to neurological conditions to cancers. (Just last month, another study highlighted the link between amalgams and Alzheimer’s.) Often, the dental aspect is missed by orthodox medicine, not to mention conventional dentistry, which, in practice, still tends to treat the mouth and teeth as somehow isolated from the rest of the body. Only when the dental aspects are addressed along with systemic burdens can real healing be effected.
So here’s the thing: Maybe if we invested just a little bit more in the care of our teeth, might we start to shrink overall spending a bit while improving our overall health and well-being? If we focused on prevention instead of fixing problems after the fact? If more of us took a whole-body approach?
Care of the mouth is care of the body, just as important as everything else we’re to do to achieve and sustain good health.
Image by Delphi234