New Zealand has just wrapped up a pilot program texting people to brush their teeth. The program didn’t target the general population, but instead just sent texts to young adults who were receiving health benefits from the government. A program like this could certainly reduce costs for government care, but it could also lead to savings for anyone.
Modeled from Smoking Cessation
In New Zealand, administrators saw the success that had been had with smoking cessation using reminder texts and wondered if texts about tooth brushing could produce similar results. They decided to try a pilot program sending young adults reminders every day for ten weeks.
The reminder also came with a question to respond whether they had brushed their teeth or not. At the beginning of the program, only 53% said they brushed their teeth, but by the end, that proportion had climbed to 73%.
Although program administrators touted this as evidence of the success of the program, we don’t know whether this change reflects an actual change in habits, if the habit change will continue, and if the program will lead to real health benefits.
In addition, some people saw the program as an invasive imposition on benefits recipients. A spokesman from the NZ Council for Civil Liberties said: “Badgering unemployed people in this way intrudes on their basic civil rights.”
A Program for California?
If it does turn out that the program makes a difference, perhaps it would be a good program to consider in California. Since the state recently added dental benefits back into Medi-Cal, our version of Medicaid, we might be able to use a similar program to reduce costs. In fact, it would likely benefit the entire Medi-Cal system, since brushing not only influences the rate of gum disease and cavities, but likely reduces the cost of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
This program could even be extended to the general population on a voluntary basis. After all, Medi-Cal patients aren’t the only ones who forget to brush their teeth and suffer the consequences.
A Lesson Learned Too Late?
Unfortunately, not everyone learns the value of tooth brushing and preventive care before damage begins. If you have suffered damage to your teeth, though, it can often be reversed. Reconstructive and cosmetic dentistry offers solutions for damaged teeth (such as dental crowns and tooth-colored fillings) and even missing teeth (dental implants).
If you want to learn what solutions are right for your tooth problems, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with a Sand Diego cosmetic dentist at Strober Dental.