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June JADA: Reduce income inequality, improve oral health

May 25, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

As U.S. society becomes more unequal in terms of income, the health, including the oral health, of the whole population is worse off, according to research published in the June issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

In the cover story "Income Inequality in the United States and Its Potential Effect on Oral Health," researchers used an online survey to gather data about U.S. adults' perceptions of their overall health and how their health affected their quality of life.  Generally, adults from areas of lower income inequality, or the unequal distribution of income, reported better oral health and oral health-related quality of life, according to the article, which is available online.

"Dental professionals must understand that a complex set of factors drive oral health, including broad economic policy of state and federal governments," said Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., an author of the article and the chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute. "The research suggests that lower income inequality in the U.S. would improve oral health. We are currently in the midst of a pretty major policy debate in the U.S. on taxation, entitlements program and the role of government in general. There are oral health implications to these decisions."

Dr. Vujicic said dental professionals may consider "whether they can play a more active role — either through their clinical work or advocacy — in addressing inequality in oral health in America."

Other highlights of the June issue include an article about the mechanisms underlying methamphetamine-related dental disease; a case report on the gradual weaning and oral care management of prolonged breastfeeding in children; and a take on maxillary tooth pain as a presenting symptom in internal carotid artery dissection.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at JADA.ADA.org in advance of the print publication.