Oral care: does India need a strong dental care policy?


By Harminder Singh Multani

The mouth is the window to the whole body. Oral problems are recognized by the WHO as a significant public health threat that diminishes the quality of life by impairing the daily functioning of the individual. Oral disorders are chronic non-communicable diseases that not only inflict agony and discomfort, but can also lead to lost work hours, which consequently has a negative impact on the economy as a whole. . Misaligned teeth and bad breath have been linked to low self-esteem and poor mental health. Additionally, oral health is linked to more than 120 systemic diseases, such as diabetes, heart problems such as endocarditis, and an increased risk of premature labor during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, dental health is often subordinated to general health in India, and this negligence leads to the maintenance of poor dental hygiene among the general population. Additionally, the increased dietary shift from traditional high-fiber foods to sugary and synthetic foods has exacerbated the situation.

Tooth decay, also known as tooth decay, affects 60% of all Indians, while 85% of all Indians suffer from some form of periodontal disease. Tooth decay affects nearly 85% of school-aged children and about 20% of Indians between the ages of 65 and 74 are toothless. The use of tobacco and related products also increases the incidence of oral cancer and related deaths. This image demonstrates the need for a strong health care policy in traditional dental practices and encourages patients to seek necessary care.

Neglect of oral health is largely attributable to two important groups. First, it is generally believed that the majority of oral problems are not life threatening and do not require immediate attention. In addition, the treatment is often long and expensive, which prevents patients from seeking help from experts.

Secondly, when formulating policies, even policymakers give the last priority to oral health when formulating policies, thereby shifting the focus from dental issues. Moreover, the distribution of dentists in India is skewed, with the dentist to population ratio in urban India being 1:10,000, unlike that in rural parts of the country, where it is close to 1:1.50,000.

However, as public awareness grows and the reach of the internet expands, the younger generation is gradually becoming more concerned about their oral hygiene and aesthetics. Rising healthcare expenditure and per capita purchasing parity has resulted in increased spending on oral healthcare services, making the Indian dental care market a USD 2 billion industry with an unprecedented growth rate of 30% YoY, making India the fastest growing dental market in the world. . India will soon become the world’s largest single market for dental products, mainly due to increasing investments in Indian markets by countries like the United States and Germany. Dental tourism accounts for 10% of medical tourism in India, which is expected to rise to 30% in the coming years. With over 5000 dental labs and nearly 300 dental institutes, the Indian dental market is vast and has the manpower to initiate a positive shift in oral health awareness. The need for dental insurance in India estimated at $672.83 million in 2020 is projected to reach $3,658.50 million by 2030 at a CAGR of 18.5%.

With investment groups and startups establishing multi-specialty hospitals offering general dental services, the Indian dental market has huge growth potential and is expected to grow by 20-30% in the coming years. The immense potential of the Indian dental market needs to be modified and utilized in such a way as to mainstream dental services to the general public and reduce the burden on public oral health. The establishment of government-backed policies that oversee India’s oral health is an important step towards streamlining dental services and a strong insurance framework that adequately supports this goal. Ironically, in a country like India, where healthcare is a public domain, around 90% of the market is served by private healthcare providers, which makes standardization of services very difficult.

Therefore, a two-pronged strategy is needed to give the oral health status in India the due it deserves. The first phase is for the government to intervene and determine the painful areas. A significant number of dental assistants and dental nurses can be trained and sent to promote dental health in inaccessible and remote areas of the country. The government should invest in training institutes for such specialization and empower their practice to maintain a strong and comprehensive oral health care system. The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program should be made mandatory for every adult to identify dental problems at a very incipient stage. Regular dental examinations should be mandatory at school level to identify early dental problems in children, thereby reducing the overall burden of disease.

The approach to care must shift from a dentist-centered system to a community-centered system with effective oral health policies that will change the paradigm from curative dentistry to preventive dentistry. Patient demographics, treatment history, and appointments can be stored on a single, government-backed cloud platform to facilitate patient social assurance and financial protection. A decrease in out-of-pocket expenses will encourage an increase in dental visits and improve the reduction in disease burden.

The increase in spending on the national health mission should be reinforced by recruiting dentists in primary health centers and granting more financial autonomy to the state oral health directorate as concrete measures to promote oral health care in India.

I strongly believe that there can be no overall health without oral health and therefore recognize the need to understand the various social, environmental and economic determinants such as age, demographics, hygiene status, literacy, housing and financial situations to formulate a strong oral health policy that prioritizes dental and oral health care.

(The author is the CEO of MyDentalPlan Healthcare Pvt Ltd. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)


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