Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gaps in dental care coverage among retirees may lead to their delaying or stopping use of dental care

Retirees may be at risk for sporadic dental care or even stopping use due to dental coverage transitions and status of insurance, reports a new study released today in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers examined dental care utilization transition dynamics in the context of changing dental coverage status among a population around the age of retirement. They used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to assess the characteristics of persons aged 51 years and older based on whether they had maintained or changed their dental care use status between the 2004 and 2006 waves of HRS. They were particularly concerned with discovering how changes in dental coverage and changes in retirement status affected the relative likelihood of having irregular dental care utilization patterns.

The sample consisted of 16,345 individuals interviewed in both the 2004 and 2006 HRS, representing 74,047,165 members of the community-based population who were aged 51 years and older at the time of the 2004 interview. They found that Americans aged 51 years and older who lost dental coverage between the 2004 and 2006 survey periods were more likely to stop dental care use between periods, than those without coverage in both periods. Those who gained coverage were more likely to start dental care use between periods, than those without coverage in both periods.

The study’s authors said, “Although we were only able to look at a short time horizon with the HRS data and therefore do not know the longer-term use patterns of those who lose coverage around retirement age, even short-term lapses in preventive coverage can result in more invasive and costly procedures in the future. For retirees on fixed incomes, the high cost of dental procedures could have important financial consequences, and the delay of care could lead to worse overall health status and affect more than only dental costs.”

[From: “The Influence of Changes in Dental Care Coverage on Dental Care Utilization Among Retirees and Near-Retirees in the United States, 2004—2006.” ]

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