Dental care should be mandatory in insurance

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 9 February 2020: High costs of dental care have been cited as a primary barrier for UAE residents in receiving dental hygiene care, according to a new survey.

The survey reveals that perceived high costs of dental care and dentistry not being included in overall health insurance are limiting access for UAE residents to prompt oral care.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by Align Technology, a global medical device company, reports that in the past 12 months, more than half (55%) of the respondents from the UAE did not receive dental care when they needed it, with the costs associated reported as the leading barrier.

This is despite 71% of respondents in the region reporting that they experienced a problem with their teeth or gums over the past year. Affordability, cited by nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents, and dental not being included within health insurance, cited by more than half (52%), were the top reasons for consumers feeling they were not receiving sufficient dental care.

The research also highlights the idea that people – even those who can comfortably afford it – are reluctant to pay for proper dental care, but would readily take it if included in their healthcare coverage. The majority (85%) of respondents also said they would consult an oral health professional if their health insurance covered the visit – consistent with international studies that suggest insurance is a key factor associated with the ‘use’ and ‘non-use’ of dental use.

The survey also revealed that only one in three (33%) of the respondents had dental care included within their current health insurance. Of those with dental included, 47% are covered for Dh3,000 or less, and just 20% – one in five – can claim a cover of Dh5,000 per annum. Dental visit rates outpace this coverage significantly, with 53% of UAE respondents having been to the dentist in the last 12 months. The overarching finding of the survey is that access to dental care within health insurance coverage would boost the likelihood of people feeling encouraged to regularly care for their health through regular dental visits.

Efficient Oral Care

Markus Sebastian, SVP and MD of Align Technology Emea, said: “Commissioning this oral hygiene survey, covering the UAE market underlines our commitment to understanding the market context and the aspirations of communities regarding oral hygiene and dental care. Our aim is for this research to serve as a launchpad and contribute to the important conversations around efficient oral care and to support efforts for providing better access to dental care, given its importance to a person’s overall health.”

He continued: “As a nation with great healthcare standards, the UAE can play a crucial role in raising the bar through wider access to dental care. This is particularly important, given the survey’s key finding that including dental care as part of health insurance could help more people benefit from timely care.”

With the goal of kick-starting a conversation about universal healthcare, the survey aims to drive greater awareness of the role dental and orthodontic procedures play as preventative measures to tackle prevalent health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease, as well as heart disease and diabetes. The full results of the survey have been presented as a white paper by Align Technology titled ‘Celebrating Healthy Smiles and Equal Healthcare Options.’

Diabetes & Oral Health

In addition to the cost factors involved, it was recorded that few respondents are having holistic conversations about their dental and overall health with healthcare professionals. For example, the survey found that just 42% – less than half of respondents – had discussed the dental benefits of checking blood sugar levels with their dentist, despite the high prevalence of diabetes in the region and the important role good oral hygiene can play in managing the condition.

This underpins the need to educate communities further about the potential dangers of lifestyle diseases and their link to poor oral health. Once respondents were given more information about these links between oral hygiene and other serious health issues, an overwhelming majority (89%) agreed that dental cover should be mandatory within their health insurance.

Reiterating the need for timely dental care and the impact that poor oral hygiene can have on daily life, the survey also revealed that more than half of respondents (55%) have occasionally felt self-conscious because of poor oral health in the past year.

Other key findings:

• In the UAE, less than half (44%) of respondents have had a conversation with an oral healthcare professional about the benefits of giving up smoking or other types of tobacco to improve dental health within the last 12 months.
• Respondents were just as oblivious to the importance of examining their mouth for oral cancer: only 46% of UAE respondents had spoken to a dental professional about the issue in the last year.
• Other barriers when considering a dental visit included acceptance of insurance (49%), doubts regarding competence of a dental provider (47%) and the lack of a health plan with dental benefits (44%). Interestingly, these reasons were evenly spread across all income levels.
• Two of the top three reasons for dentist visits were cleaning and polishing (44%) and general check-ups (31%).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), oral diseases are the most common non-communicable
diseases that may affect people throughout their lifetime. Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is the 11th most prevalent disease globally.

A pioneer in path-breaking innovations in dental care, including the Invisalign clear aligner system and iTero intraoral scanners, Align Technology brings the latest advances in digital dentistry with the use of 3D printing, creating the opportunity for trained professionals across the world to straighten millions of smiles in a gentle, non-invasive manner.

Dubai Gazette