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University of Michigan study evaluates frequency of dental visits

June 11, 2013

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

Little evidence supports twice yearly dental preventive care visits for all adults, and frequency of patient visits should be based on personalized medicine that also accounts for genetics, according to a University of Michigan study published June 10 in the Journal of Dental Research.

Researchers retrospectively evaluated 16 years of insurance claims for 5,117 adults for tooth extraction events and used risk-based approaches to test tooth loss associated with one versus two preventive care visits in both high-risk and low-risk patients. High-risk patients were ones with more than one risk factor including smoking, diabetes and the interleukin-1 genotype. Low-risk patients were ones with no risk factors.

They found that increasing risk factors increased dental events. For patients with no risk factors, no significant benefit was appreciated by undergoing two preventive dental visits compared to one visit annually. However, patients having at least one of the three risk factors did receive significant benefit in terms of tooth loss by having two preventive dental visits per year. The authors speculated that patients with two or three risk factors might benefit from more than two annual preventive visits. Also, no single risk factor, regardless of prevention frequency, increased oral health care costs. However, multiple risk factors increased costs compared to one or no risk factors.

The full study, “Patient Stratification for Preventive Care in Dentistry,” is available online.

In a press statement, the Association emphasized that, to maintain optimal oral health, the American Dental Association recommends regular dental visits, at intervals determined by a dentist.