Data: What we measure really matters

Since the Surgeon General’s 2000 report on oral health, the United States has made significant progress in expanding dental coverage and access to oral health care. We can be especially proud of efforts to improve coverage for children and low-income families. However, despite this progress, the oral health community still lacks timely, consistent, and readily-available data to adequately describe the state of oral health across populations, as well as the outcomes of specific health strategies.

Currently, data focuses on basic measures of service utilization — in other words, how many children received some type of dental service or treatment? It’s time to invest in new data systems that tell us a lot more. After all, we are unlikely to achieve that which we do not measure for. Clearly, collecting and reporting the right kinds of oral health data is crucial.

Making Oral Health Count is a 2017 report that CDHP produced with DentaQuest Foundation and the Association of State & Territorial Dental Directors. This report summarizes the challenges we face as we seek to create a comprehensive and well-aligned system of oral health measurement.

In 2012, the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance called for “a standardized core set of key data elements that present a picture of the future of oral health in this country, against which individuals, institutions, and government can measure future outcomes.” We have a way to go before we fulfill this worthy goal. CDHP continues to work with state and federal stakeholders to move us closer to achieving that goal.

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of new military recruits couldn't be deployed because of dental problems.
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