The Importance of Good Oral Health and Digitalisation in Promoting
 Overall Well-being
Markus Sebastian

The Importance of Good Oral Health and Digitalisation in Promoting
 Overall Well-being

Markus Sebastian, SVP & MD of EMEA, Align Technology
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The UAE, and Dubai in particular, is at the forefront of an unprecedented level of innovation – using digital technology to build a ‘smart, happy city’ in line with H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Dubai Vision 2021. This innovation is touching a myriad of different aspects in our lives, from the way we work, to the way we enjoy leisure activities. Most importantly however, these advances are helping us to become a healthier and happier population.

One of the main pillars of Dubai’s Vision 2021 is aimed towards having a world-class healthcare system in, which preventative medicines and other treatments are  the main drivers to help reduce cancer rates and lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. One of the ultimate goals of this vision is to provide a healthy life to all citizens.

At Align Technology, oral health as well as doctor and patient overall health is at the very centre of all our focus, now more than ever due to COVID-19. With risk of infection high, those who suffer from poor oral health may be more susceptible to infection than others. A study published recently in the British Dental Journal highlighted the importance of improved oral hygiene during a COVID-19 infection in order to reduce the bacterial load in the mouth and, with it, the risk of a bacterial superinfection. The study also found that those patients who suffered from a severe form of COVID-19 had higher levels of inflammatory markers and bacteria.

The study recommended that poor oral hygiene be considered as a risk factor for COVID-19 complications, especially in patients with diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Given that there already exists a link between oral and respiratory health, along with evidence the virus can be transmitted when it enters the body via the nose, mouth, or ears – practicing proper oral hygiene may help slow down the progression of such infections.

So, the question is – what can we do as an industry to efficiently overcome the evolving challenges we face, when looking to provide the best diagnostic care to patients? The answer lies in digital technologies. The transformational influence of the digital world is already evident in the dental industry, with cutting-edge technology used by doctors to serve patients better – and help clinicians achieve more efficient outcomes. From timely and remote patient care and analysis, to being one of the early adopters of 3D printing – dentistry is transforming the digital narrative across the Middle East and beyond.

Dentistry also plays a major role in identifying red flags with regards to a patient’s overall health and wellbeing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), oral diseases are among the most common noncommunicable 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 staggering statistic and one which we, as an industry, must work together to overcome. The evolution of taking dentistry from analogue to digital is going to help us achieve this in years to come.

The challenges of 2020 have ushered in a new and accelerated demand for digital dentistry, driven as much by the cost efficiencies it can generate for expensive dental procedures as the growing focus of dental providers to stay relevant in the era of unexpected and fast-paced changes.

Poor dental health has serious consequences, including painful, disabling, and costly health conditions. This is especially the case for those who have the biggest obstacles in getting  access to dental care. According to a recent survey conducted by Align Technology, in partnership with YouGov, nearly two-thirds of UAE residents believe cost may be a barrier in receiving timely and proper dental care. Most industries that are either digitally driven or disrupted have witnessed lowering costs. The dental industry is no different. Imagine the benefit digital tools would bring to patients as well as to the clinics, as they provide better care at lower costs. This is even more relevant to the regions where insurance coverage of dentistry services is not a luxury available to all.

The value of digital dentistry goes deeper than this, from helping patients get that ‘perfect smile’ to undertaking both routine and more complex procedures, such as intraoral imaging, radiography, caries diagnosis and computer-aided implants, which all contribute to improve diagnosis, precision and accuracy. With the current focus of the UAE to be leaders in the digital sector, digitalisation in dentistry is a natural progression, expected to gain even wider acceptance in the years to come.

At Align Technology, we are complimenting the evolution from analogue to digital dentistry with the iTero Intraoral scanner − helping to modernize today’s practices by replacing physical impressions, creating digital treatment planning, and leveraging the potential to revolutionise almost every type of dental treatment offered. We truly believe the future of the dental industry is digital.

Maintaining healthy teeth is very important for one’s well-being – underpinning how digitalisation of dentistry services is contributing to the all-round wellness of individuals. By offering doctors and patients digital, end-to-end solutions, I believe there will be more tangible and efficient solutions available for our ever-changing world.