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KHIP: Fewer Kentucky adults delaying dental health care as access improves around state

Oral health is a key component of overall health. Data released Thursday from the 2018 Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) show noticeable improvements in oral health care in the Commonwealth—more adults have dental insurance, most have visited a dentist in the past year, and fewer Kentucky adults are delaying dental care due to cost. However, disparities exist for Kentuckians with lower incomes.

KHIP is jointly funded by Interact for Health and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

“For far too long, we’ve considered oral health to be a secondary concern, and that should not be the case,” said O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of Interact for Health. “As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note in the Healthy People 2020 goals, good oral health improves a person’s ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and make facial expressions to show feelings and emotions. In turn, this can impact a person’s overall health and ability to be productive at school or work.”

More Kentucky adults have dental insurance

KHIP found that 6 in 10 Kentucky adults (60%) reported they had dental insurance of any kind. This is an increase from 2012, the last time KHIP measured this, when 48% of Kentucky adults indicated that they were insured.

However, the survey also found that access to dental insurance varied by income: 41% of Kentucky adults whose household income was 138% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less said they had dental coverage, compared to 73% of Kentucky adults earning more than 200% of FPG.

Kentucky adults who visit dentist more likely to have insurance

Overall, about 6 in 10 Kentucky adults (59%) said that they had seen a dentist in the last 12 months, about the same as when KHIP first asked this question in 2012. The most recent national data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, conducted by the CDC, shows that 66% of American adults had seen in dentist in the past year.

Visiting a dentists was connected to dental insurance coverage, KHIP found. Of the Kentucky adults who had visited a dentist in the past year, 73% said they had dental insurance compared to 27% who said they did not have coverage.

Fewer delaying care due to cost

If left untreated, many oral health problems can cause serious and even life-threatening complications.

KHIP asked adults if, in the last 12 months, they had delayed dental care or did not get care because of cost. Fewer than 3 in 10 Kentucky adults (26%) reported that they had gone without care, a decline from 37% in 2012.

“As our community looks to improve oral health, we must continue to reduce barriers to dental care, including: lack of access to care, lack of awareness about oral health, cost and fear of dental procedures,” said Owens. “At the same time, we need to reduce the incidence of other health behaviors that contribute to poor oral health, including tobacco use and poor nutrition.”

From Interact for Health

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