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Maintaining oral health is much more important than most people think. Poor oral hygiene can result in tooth decay that could have significant impact on our general health including cognitive impairment. What’s more, dental problems do not only impact one individual and can go as far as affecting the whole family and government dental expenditure. Multiple studies have revealed the lack of dental care awareness among Hong Kong and Taiwanese public – almost all adults surveyed in Hong Kong have experienced tooth decay (96%) while the tooth decay prevalence rate among Taiwanese adults is close to 90% . Ahead of the World Oral Health Day, the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Hong Kong invited two dental experts – Professor Ming-Lun Hsu, the Dean of School of Dentistry in National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan, and Professor Edward Chin-Man Lo, Chair Professor of Dental Public Health in Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Hong Kong to share the concept of “The Economics of Family Oral Healthcare” and introduce the international data on oral care and oral diseases prevention trend in Hong Kong.

“The Economics of Family Oral Healthcare”: Dental Expenses Can Add Up to The Price of a Brand New Car Professor Hsu shared that although tooth decay is a not a contagious disease, it is likely to affect more than one member of the family living under the same roof due to similar lifestyle and oral hygiene habits. Besides, even when a single member of the family is suffering from tooth decay or other sickness, the entire family will be affected from the care and attention required by the patient.

Professor Hsu further pointed out that chewing sugar-free gums is a recommendation included in the German Government’s latest oral health guideline on maintaining oral hygiene and preventing tooth decay. Also, a recent research indicates that developing the habit of chewing sugar-free gums, one could reduce expenses on dental care up to €81 (about HKD$670) per year . Professor Hsu said, “Dental diseases account for about 6.7% of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance expense, amounting to NTD$41.8 billion a year. If families understand the concept of ‘The Economics of Family Oral Healthcare’ and incorporate oral health preventive measures into daily routines, people will be able to enjoy a healthier life, avoiding unnecessary family financial burden and even receiving more effective and quality healthcare services. Remember, the healthier the teeth one has, the less dental expenses one spends!”

Plagued with oral problems such as tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth loss and dental implants, Ms Lau’s family is known as a “toothache family” to many of her friends and relatives. “My son used to cry in the middle of the night without any obvious reasons when he was about one year old. I found out his front teeth had decayed only when I brought him to the dentist. When my child needed to attend dental check-ups, we sometimes even needed help from his grandparents. It costed my family a lot of time and energy every time we pay a visit to the dentist,” said Ms Lau. Another family member Mr Lau added, “I also suffered from severe tooth decay and tooth extraction was the only treatment option.