e-mail Print Share

ADA Health Policy Institute publishes oral health fact sheets for every U.S. state

December 09, 2015

By Kelly Soderlund

The ADA Health Policy Institute has released fact sheets for every U.S. state analyzing dental care utilization, supply of dentists, Medicaid participation, reimbursement rates, sealant use and who has access to fluoridated drinking water.

HPI says “The Oral Health Care System: A State-by-State Analysis” is a first-of-its-kind report that dentists and members of the public can access at ADA.org/statefacts. Each state and the District of Columbia has its own fact sheet with easy-to-read charts, graphics and statistics that compare it to the nation as a whole.

“This multi-year effort brings together data and analysis in a way that helps inform policy decisions,” Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., ADA chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute, wrote in the commentary section of the report. “And when it comes to oral health in America, indeed, many trend lines are important.”

The statistics show that adults view oral health as very important, with 95 percent of those surveyed saying they value keeping their mouth healthy. Those same adults understand that routine dental care is a key part of overall wellness, with 93 percent saying that regular visits to the dentist “help keep me healthy.” Nearly 15,000 U.S. adults were surveyed to measure their dental IQ, oral health status and attitudes toward the importance and value of good oral health.

The report also shows substantial gains in access to dental care among Medicaid children in recent years. Between 2000 and 2013, all but one state saw an increase in the percentage of Medicaid children who had at least one dental visit in the past year. Nationally, the rate grew from 29 to 48 percent, with some states seeing even larger increases.

“As a result, the gap in dental care use between Medicaid children and children with private dental benefits narrowed significantly over this same timeframe in the vast majority of states,” Dr. Vujicic wrote.

Researchers also found that dental care use trends for adults are different than the trends for children. Among adults with private dental benefits, dental care use is declining in most states. Additionally, the gap in dental care use between Medicaid and privately insured adults is much wider than it is for children.

“As stated by a former U.S. surgeon general: ‘You can’t be healthy without good oral health.’ There is emerging evidence that oral health is related to conditions outside the mouth, like diabetes, pregnancy and even mental health,” Dr. Vujicic wrote. “Health care policy in the United States clearly emphasizes oral health for children. It might be time to reconnect mouth and body for adults.”