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Oral Health Care: A Missing Pillar of Total Health Care?

Oral health is an important component of overall health, and preventive dental care is essential for maintaining good oral health. However, many patients face significant barriers to preventive dental care. We examined prevalence of and factors associated with no recent preventive dental care in an adult health plan population. For this cross-sectional study, we used data for 19,672 Kaiser Permanente members aged 25-85 who participated in the 2014/2015 or 2017 Member Health Survey (MHS) and 20,329 Medicaid members who completed an intake questionnaire. We estimated percentages of adults with no preventive dental care (teeth cleaning and examination by a dental professional) in the prior 12 months, overall and among four racial groups, by age, sex, education, income, and dental care cost factors. We used logistic regression to model associations of sociodemographic and cost factors with no preventive dental care. We also examined lack of preventive dental care in subgroups at elevated risk for periodontal disease. Overall prevalence of no preventive dental care was 21%, with significant differences by race (non-Hispanic White, 19.6%; African-American/Black, 29.3%; Latinx, 24.9%, Asian American/Pacific Islander, 19.6%). Adults with lower educational attainment and household income and dental care cost barriers were more likely to lack preventive dental care. Racial and socioeconomic factors remained significant in the multivariable models. Lack of preventive dental care was fairly common among adults with diabetes, prediabetes, hypertension, smokers, frequent consumption of sugary beverages, and Medicaid coverage. Oral health care should be better integrated with primary medical care to promote adult total health.

Authors: Gordon, Nancy P; Mosen, David M; Banegas, Matthew P

Perm J. 2021 12 03;25. Epub 2021-12-03.

PubMed abstract

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