More than a third of Kentucky adults say they didn't go to a dentist last year, and one in six said they hadn't in five years or more, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.
The results show the challenges Kentucky adults who are lower income, uninsured or living in rural areas face in getting dental care, said the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which sponsors the poll with Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. “Oral health is critical to overall health,” said Dr. Susan Zepeda, president of the foundation.
The poll, taken Oct. 25 through Nov. 26, found that 64.4 percent of Kentucky adults went to the dentist in the past year. Another 8.5 percent said they had been in the previous year, 10.4 percent said their last visit was three to five years ago, and 14.6 percent said it has been more than five years. Two percent of Kentuckians polled said they had never been to a dentist.
Among those who defines their overall health as very good or excellent, 73 percent had a dental visit in the previous year while only half of those who said their overall health is fair or poor said they did.
Only 24 percent said their physician has asked about their oral or dental health. Those whose physicians did ask about their oral health (73%) were more likely to visit a dentist than those who were not asked (62%).
Dental insurance is relatively rare, so income is a major factor in seeing after oral health. Among Kentucky adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty threshold, making them eligible for Medicaid, 48 percent reported seeing a dentist in the past year. Among those with incomes more than double the threshold, the figure was 81 percent. Among those who said they had insurance, 70 percent reported a dental visit, while only 43 percent of the uninsured said they did.
Just over half (51%) of adults who live in Appalachian Kentucky visited a dentist in the past year compared to seven in ten (71%) of adults living outside Appalachia.
The poll surveyed a random sample of 1,551 adults from throughout Kentucky by telephone, including landlines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.