A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association has revealed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oral health care in the United States. The study, conducted by Delta Dental, found a significant decrease in the provision of preventive dental services during the pandemic, which persisted for over a year. This decline was observed across all age groups under 65.
One possible reason for this decrease in preventive dental care is the loss of employer-sponsored dental benefits, making it difficult for individuals to afford regular dental visits. Additionally, concerns about COVID-19 exposure may have deterred people from seeking dental care. Staff shortages at dental offices could have also limited access to preventive services.
Interestingly, the study also identified an increase in the delivery of night guards to adult patients. This rise in stress-related teeth grinding suggests that the pandemic has had an impact on people’s mental health, leading to oral health issues such as cracked or fractured teeth.
Dr. Joseph Dill, the Chief Dental Officer of Delta Dental Plans Association, highlighted the importance of understanding the long-term effects of the pandemic on oral and overall health. The reduction in preventive procedures seen across age groups could potentially lead to an increase in dental problems like cavities and deteriorating periodontal health. This, in turn, could worsen other health issues such as stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The study utilized national insurance claims data to assess the effects of the pandemic on oral health care. By analyzing claims from 2017 to 2019 and from July 2020 to December 2021, which totaled 600 million submitted procedure codes, the research team was able to identify trends and provide valuable insights for potential interventions.
Moving forward, the study team plans to conduct further research using national oral health claims data from 2022. This follow-up research aims to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the ongoing impact of the pandemic on oral health care in the United States. By continuing to monitor and address the effects of the pandemic on oral health, dental professionals can work towards mitigating potential long-term consequences and ensuring the well-being of their patients.