Oral Health Group

Patients just want a cleaning — really?

November 5, 2014
by Kahaliah Richards

In a phrase, “less dentistry”.  We know this from tracking the following since 2007:

  • follow-up dental visits (i.e. recalls) have fallen to levels last seen in 2007
  • patients are declining procedures other than the routine cleaning  and have done so for many years (see Figure 1 below).

The American Dental Association has pondered this patient behaviour for some time and has concluded that dental services are either too expensive or patient incomes too inadequate to keep the dental practice busy.

Economic pressures on the American (and Canadian) middle class obviously contribute to this trend to less dentistry. And the continued contraction of employer subsidies for dental care aggravate it.

So what is the best response to correcting this slide?

Some believe it is lowering prices, at least for cosmetic procedures, to get the attention of the community. Witness the whitening specials shouted on temporary signs in the plaza parking lot.

But others, including this blogger, believe it is meeting the patients’ new motivations for purchasing dental care. That is, deliver on the core reason for sitting in the dental practice waiting room — to protect overall health.

We know increasingly from studies cited frequently in this blog and on the Facebook page of Partners in Prevention that a dental cleaning is a complex and impact-full procedure which has a growing context in preserving overall health. We also know that a cleaning’s impact on the biofilm can be extended significantly and affordably with Prevora.

The chart below says a lot — time to take a new approach to delivering dental services.