Watching television commercials, and the apparent growing obsession with white teeth in the United States, you would think that dental health is of primary importance to most Americans. And yet millions fail to follow basic guidelines on oral health, such as regular cleanings. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being the high cost of dental care. Another is lack of insurance, which again places patients in the difficult position of caring for their teeth versus more immediate expenses.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), this lack of dental care comes at great expense to a person's overall health. Here are a few of the ADA’s sobering statistics:1
- Twenty-seven percent of adults over 20 have untreated cavities.
- Ninety-one percent of Americans over 20 have had cavities at some point in their lives.
- There are substantially greater rates of untreated dental disease among African Americans (42 percent) and Hispanics (36 percent).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in another report, offers similarly grim statistics:2
- Percent of children ages 5-19 with untreated dental cavities: 18.6 (2011-2014)
- Percent of adults ages 20-44 with untreated dental cavities: 31.6% (2011-2014)
- Percent of children ages 2-17 with a dental visit in the past year: 84.7% (2015)
- Percent of adults ages 18-64 with a dental visit in the past year: 64.0% (2015)
- Percent of adults ages 65 and over with a dental visit in the past year: 62.7% (2015)
- Among adults ages 20–64, 91% had dental cavities and 27% had untreated tooth decay.
- Adults ages 20–39 were twice as likely to have all their teeth (67%) compared with those ages 40–64 (34%).
- About one in five adults ages 65 and over had untreated tooth decay
The ADA stresses the importance of prevention in staving off dental and gum disease. The problem is access. Many people, especially those in rural or impoverished regions, do not have access to a dentist. Some, like the elderly, do not have insurance coverage, and their fixed incomes leave little room for dental expenses.
That’s where mobile dentistry comes in. This new trend in dental access brings the dentist to the patient, especially those in need. Common localities where mobile dentists operate are:
- Nursing homes
- Inner city schools
- Migrant communities/programs
- Rural/remote communities
- Native American reservations
Although the scope of practice is more limited in mobile dentistry, and complex procedures are difficult if not impossible in some instances, mobile dentists can provide many treatments, most geared at preventive care.
The Role of Suction in Dentistry
No matter their scope, all dental procedures have one thing in common: they require suction. And for mobile dentistry, which lacks the infrastructure of a permanent office, portable suction may be the only option, making dentistry and portable suction a valuable partnership.
Suction for dentistry achieves the same objectives as in any medical setting, be it surgery or EMS. This includes:
- Removing blood, sputum, and vomit from the oral cavity
- Preventing hypoxia by keeping the airway clear
- Preventing aspiration and protecting the lower airway
Whenever a dentist or hygienist works within the oral cavity, there is always the risk of choking and aspiration. Blood, sputum, and vomit can enter the oropharynx, causing an obstruction. Suction also enables a clear visual field in which to work, allowing dental personnel the ability to manipulate tools and treat their patients.
Maintaining Your Suction Units
Portable suction machines require regular maintenance to ensure proper function. This includes:
- Checking the units at the start of each shift
- Cleaning the unit after each use, to avoid cross-contamination
- Replacing low batteries and keeping extras on hand
- Storing the units in safe areas to avoid damage or exposure to extreme temperatures
- Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance to avoid warranty noncompliance
Suction plays a critical role in managing the airway during dental procedures. And with an increase in mobile dentistry, more and more portable suction machines will be implemented. Without effective suction, most forms of dental work would be impossible, making suction a valuable partner in mobile dentistry.
1 “News Releases: New CDC Statistics Show Need for Increased Access to Dental Care, with a Greater Emphasis on Preventing Disease,” American Dental Association,
2 “Oral and Dental Health,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm.