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Letters: Promote prevention

January 05, 2015 2011 was the year I graduated dental school and my first/current job is at a public health clinic. Every day, I clearly see the mass failing of our profession. Where are we when it comes to proactive, highly vocal decisions to work ourselves out of a job? By this I mean preventive care.

I saw an ad on the back cover of The Journal of the American Dental Association. Crest/Oral-B presented their "innovation" from 1963 — an electric toothbrush. Has the incidence of decay dropped because of this innovation? Electric toothbrushes abound in the marketplace, some as high as $190. (What could a very expensive toothbrush do that a $25 model couldn't? A Kia will likely run as well as a Mercedes. It's all about perceived value.) If folks are using a toothbrush (big assumption), then we should see a drop in the incidence of decay.

Decay is preventable, yet 175 million fillings are placed yearly. How is it possible that an entire grocery store aisle is devoted to sugar-laden breakfast cereals? Money, that's how. General Mills, Post and Quaker directly support our profession with their products. Let's travel to the next aisle of the grocery store and peruse the soda. Pepsi and Coke products have become a worldwide staple. Pop is fast, easy and cheap. I'll bet it costs Coke more money to manufacture the container than to produce the sugar water contents.

Dentists need to insist on the reduction of pop consumption. The former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, proffered the idea of limiting pop intake and yet the ADA cannot?
 
We are at the helm of the ADA. I have a wonderful idea. Let's require the soft drink industry to put warning labels on pop, just like we do for cigarettes. "Soda is hazardous … rinse your mouth with water after every can of soda." San Francisco lobbied to have this very warning applied to pop and the soft drink industry pushed back hard. Let's rearrange the organization of the grocery store. Place toothbrushes right next to the pop or candy. People will start to make the connection between sugar, tooth brushing and decay.

I work in the public health sector every day. Those of you in private practice don't likely see this level of decay so you don't think it exists. What I do notice is that education, income and past family awareness has much to do with generational decay. Access/insurance makes a difference. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act is not helping out the world of dentistry because states are cutting back on their own Medicaid criteria.

Guys and gals, it is time to be super creative. We should be actively promoting prevention, but I suspect that we as highly paid professionals will rest on our laurels and not be willing to work ourselves out of a job.

Follow the money trail for the answer to this problem.

Joshua Davidson, D.M.D, M.P.H.
Chippewa Falls Dental Center
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Editor's note: Dr. Davidson's call for increased emphasis on prevention its perfectly with the ADA's renewed emphasis on public education through MouthHealthy.org, a website devoted exclusively to educating people about the full range of oral health topics. The ADA also has made a substantial commitment, along with 35 other organizations, to fund a highly successful campaign by the Ad Council targeting both kids and parents with the simple message that kids need to brush for two minutes twice a day. And the ADA's Action for Dental Health movement, launched in 2013, emphasizes prevention heavily as the key to bringing good oral health to all Americans.