Oral Health Campaign Survey: QA with Markus Sebastian

Markus Sebastian oral health align tech

Oral Health Campaign Survey findings 

Markus Sebastian, SVP & MD EMEA Region, Align Technology Q&A

  • Tell us about the Align Oral Health campaign and what prompted you to start this campaign?

The GCC region has seen steady progress towards extending the reach and support of healthcare services in the recent years, including dental. The UAE Government, in particular, has been a regional leader in implementing innovative initiatives to improve its citizens’ lives and health, as part of its mission to make the country the happiest nation in the world under its National Agenda Vision 2021. A contributing factor in the UAE has been the introduction of mandatory insurance programmes. 

Dental cover, however, is not currently included within mandatory health insurance plans. 

At Align Technology, we strongly believe that oral health can play a key role as a preventative measure for other health issues. These may include heart disease, diabetes, the damage caused by smoking – all very prevalent in the region. As governments across the region work towards achieving their ambitious visions, we too have a duty to support these transformation goals within our sector, to serve patients better and achieve more efficient outcomes. 

We commissioned a YouGov survey to better understand the challenges facing oral hygiene in the region, and to provide a context in which we can support a future where each and every person’s oral health is prioritised. By launching this campaign, our aim was to drive greater awareness of the role dental and orthodontic procedures play. We also wanted to collect and share objective insights into consumer trends that will contribute to the important conversations around accelerating future access to dental care, given its importance to a person’s overall health. 

Markus Sebastian Align tech oral health healthcare

  • What are some of the key findings, which particularly stood out to you?

The overarching finding of the research showed us that access to dental care within health insurance coverage, even the most basic of allowances, would encourage more people to regular dental visits. Through the survey results, we came to find that 89% of residents in the UAE believed dental care should be mandatory within their health insurance.

We also found that more than half (55%) of the respondents surveyed in the UAE did not receive dental care when they needed it. This is despite 71% of respondents in the region reporting that they experienced a problem with their teeth or gums over the past year. Nearly two-thirds of UAE residents surveyed believed the main reason for this disparity was the cost, which acted as a leading barrier in receiving timely and proper dental care.

The survey results also highlighted that the dental and health community needs to do more to educate residents about the potential dangers of certain conditions and habits that are directly linked to poor oral health. From a more social perspective, the survey revealed that more than half of respondents (55%) have occasionally felt self-conscious because of poor oral health in the past year. People felt that poor oral hygiene would particularly affect their social interactions and their professional interactions.

  • Tell us more about the implications of health insurance coverage and how having access to dental coverage can make a positive impact?

We believe that there is still room to do more to educate patients about the potential dangers of such conditions and habits, by explaining their link to poor health.

However, when dental cover in one’s overall health insurance only covers medical procedures, patients can potentially miss out on regularly checking on their dental health and benefiting from hygienic and even cosmetic procedures – such as scaling. With this in mind, our research indicates that offering UAE residents the access to dental insurance coverage will encourage more people to regularly visit their dentists and this will, in time, play a critical role in a patient’s long-term health. 

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  • How is Align Technology helping to drive digital innovation and how do you see our region doing in comparison to other markets?

While digitisation will not replace the role of the specialist, we believe it has the power to support healthcare practices in the Middle East and beyond. Digital technology in the healthcare field – in the Middle East and globally – enables large amounts of data to be gathered, analysed and used to improve treatment modalities. 

Technology and innovation is at the core of Align as it enables the evolution of digital dentistry. We are dedicated to transforming lives by improving the journey to a healthy and beautiful smile. We believe that a better smile has the power to create a better future, so we create digital technology and experiences to help people move forward in life.

When it comes to the region, The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), both have been regional leaders in promoting the importance of oral health and can be lauded for these efforts. I am happy to see that both countries have developed long-term development programs and have been so supportive of technological progress and innovation. the region along with these two nations are making significant strides in digitisation that the rest of the world is watching closely. The speed of adoption of digital dentistry is accelerating, with more doctors introducing clear aligners and intraoral scanners in their practice, and more consumers than ever visiting doctors to get their teeth straightened. 

  • What role can healthcare practitioners play to help drive awareness of the importance of oral health for communities?

We know that poor oral health may increase the risk of health of a patient’s overall wellbeing. Our survey shows we need to do more to educate our communities about the potential dangers of such conditions and habits, explaining their link to poor oral health. 

Primary-care physicians and general practitioners (GPs) can, as part of their general health care, promote and contribute to improved oral health care. Physicians establish early relationships with some dental patients and are a considered a trustworthy source. Right from informing their patients on the link between oral health and overall health to suggesting ways to promote oral hygiene and by referring patients to the dentist. 

While there were positive indications from the survey, including the fact that more than half (53%) of respondents said they’ve been to the dentist within the past year, it is clear that there is still work to be done to support a future where each and every person’s oral health is prioritised. 

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