Fewer in Ky. delaying dental care because of cost

Published 4:38 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019


News release

LOUISVILLE — Fewer Kentuckians are delaying or skipping dental care because of the cost, but only about six in 10 Kentucky adults saw a dentist in the past year, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) report.

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In 2018, 26 percent of Kentucky adults said they’d delayed or skipped care, down from 37 percent in 2012 and 43 percent in 2009. Still, 41 percent said they hadn’t visited a dentist in the prior year, about the same as in 2012.

KHIP is an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults about health and health-policy issues; it is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health.

“Good dental health is about more than an attractive smile; taking care of your teeth and gums and seeing a dentist regularly can help prevent a whole host of diseases that affect the entire body,” said Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, a Morganfield dentist and a member of the Foundation’s Community Advisory Council. “Health policies that make comprehensive dental care affordable and otherwise improve access are critical to improving overall health in Kentucky.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oral health problems such as tooth and gum disease as well as oral cancer, are linked to other chronic conditions including diabetes and heart disease. In turn, persons with arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, emphysema or hepatitis C are at greater risk for oral health problems and need regular visits to their dental providers.

The KHIP report found the proportion of Kentucky adults who have visited a dentist in the prior year (59 percent) was about the same as in 2012 (61 percent), slightly lower than the national average of 66 percent. In addition, the report found, 60 percent of Kentucky adults have dental insurance, up from 48 percent in 2012.

Kentucky adults with higher household incomes were more likely to have dental insurance than those living on lower incomes. Moreover, those with dental insurance were more likely to have had dental care in the prior year. In 2018, 41 percent of those with household incomes at or below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines had dental insurance, while 73 percent of those with household incomes greater than 200 percent of the poverty guidelines had coverage. Of those who had visited a dentist in 2018, 73 percent had dental insurance.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation, said, “Here is yet another example of how insurance coverage for preventive and wellness care improves overall health outcomes. Too often however, coverage is not accessible to persons with lower household income levels. Indeed, this KHIP report shows that the people who can least afford dental screenings and other preventive care, let alone treatment for gum disease and other oral health issues, are also the least likely to have insurance to help cover the cost of that care.”

Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity.