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March JADA finds past incarceration associated with oral health issues

February 24, 2020

By Mary Beth Versaci

March JADA cover image
Formerly incarcerated people in the U.S. have worse oral health outcomes than those who have never been in prison, according to a study published in the March issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The cover story, "Oral Health Status and Oral Health Care Use Among Formerly Incarcerated People," examined the relationship between former incarceration and two self-reported oral health outcomes –– periodontal disease and oral health care use –– from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, finding incarceration history is associated with both outcomes.

"It is well documented that formerly incarcerated individuals suffer from health problems at high rates, yet very little research has focused on the oral health among this population," said authors Alexander Testa, Ph.D., and Chantal Fahmy, Ph.D., both assistant professors in the department of criminology and justice at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "Our findings indicate that formerly incarcerated people in the United States have poorer oral health and are less likely to utilize dental care services than those who have not been incarcerated."

Their oral health problems likely stem from negative health behaviors, such as smoking, substance use and poor nutrition, and their low socioeconomic status, according to the article. Their status also could be a barrier to receiving oral health care services, and they have less access to health and dental insurance coverage than the general population.

"Because much of this relationship was explained by modifiable risk factors such as low socioeconomic status, poor diet quality and drug use, targeted interventions can be developed to improve oral health among this population," Drs. Testa and Fahmy said.

Other articles in the March issue of JADA examine antibiotic and opioid prescribing for dental-related conditions in emergency departments, the association of income inequality with orthodontic treatment use and endodontic management of an auto-transplanted mandibular third molar. A commentary in the issue discusses electronic cigarettes and the dental patient.

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