Delta Dental Institute Shines a New Spotlight on Oral Health

By Joseph Dill, Head of Dental Science at the Delta Dental Institute

Across the nation, Americans are continually looking for ways to improve our health care system. We experience it in our neighborhoods and schools through community projects and health education for kids. We see it through corporate wellness initiatives designed to improve the health of employees. And we hear about it on Capitol Hill where legislators advocate for better funding and more effective systems of care.

What's often missing from the national conversation is oral health. In 2018, nearly half of Americans said they went without a routine cleaning or check up in the last year, and 39 percent said they didn't go to the dentist when they needed a treatment.1 During that same time, almost all Americans had health insurance, but only three-quarters had dental coverage.2

The discrepancy is alarming, and having seen it first-hand as a dentist, I couldn't be more thrilled that Delta Dental is shining a new spotlight on this critical aspect of our health. Studies show that good oral health has a positive effect on overall health and well-being. A healthy smile improves social interaction, communication, and the ability to perform well in work and school.3 In fact, regular oral exams help patients catch early indicators of seemingly unrelated health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease.4 As the Mayo Clinic puts it, oral health is the window to your overall health.5  All in all, oral health is critical to overall health, and Delta Dental is committed to helping Americans be their happiest, healthiest selves.

I'm excited and honored to announce the Delta Dental Institute. The Institute, in partnership with Delta Dental companies and dedicated partners across the country, will advance oral health for all Americans by:

  • Advancing research: The Institute will partner with leading scientists, academic institutions, health care groups and other organizations to explore important oral health topics and seek to produce data-driven insights that lead to actionable solutions for improved oral and overall health.
  • Shining a national spotlight on the more than $60 million being invested this year to break down barriers to oral health. The Delta Dental member companies will invest in programs in communities across the country that improve oral health, prevent dental disease, expand access to care, and emphasize the importance of oral health as a part of overall health.
  • Championing healthy smiles: Nine in ten Americans view dental benefits as either a welcome part or important part of the public debates around health care legislation. Because oral health is so often left out of policy conversations, the Institute will serve as a key voice pushing for policy solutions to promote affordable access to oral care.

At Delta Dental, we live and breathe oral health—it's been our primary focus for more than 60 years. Together, we can start making a difference to ensure all Americans have the healthy smile they deserve and live their healthiest lives. On behalf of the Delta Dental Institute, we look forward to working with you! 

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1. NORC At The University Of Chicago, "New Survey Finds Large Number of People Skipping Necessary Medical Care Because of Cost," Press Release, 3/26/18

2. "Who Has Dental Benefits Today," National Association of Dental Plans

3. "A New Definition For Oral Health Developed By The FDI World Dental Federation Opens The Door To A Universal Definition Of Oral Health," The Journal Of The American Dental Association, 12/2016

4. "Diabetes? Heart Disease? Osteoporosis? Your Dentist May Know Before You Do," Delta Dental of California, Accessed 3/27/19

5. "Oral Health: A Window To Your Overall Health," Mayo Clinic, Accessed 3/20/19