Poll shows more than half of Ky. adults have no dental insurance and many go without essential dental care

Routine dental care is essential to overall health, but a new poll shows 1.7 million Kentucky adults do not have dental insurance. That is more than times the number of people who will be at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, notes the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsored the poll.

The poll also showed that many Kentucky adults are going without the dental care they need. While the poll found that few owe money for dental bills, only 61 percent said they visited a dentist or dental clinic within the past year. The national figure is 70 percent.

“Oral health is essential to overall health,” said Dr. Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the foundation. “Yet, our research indicates a majority of Kentuckians do not have dental coverage, so it is not surprising that a large number of adults do not have a personal dentist or oral health provider.”

Poor oral health or oral pain can lead to poor nutrition and can reduce someone’s quality of life by making it difficult to sleep, work or interact with others, and having dental insurance is an important factor in determining whether someone is getting the dental care they need.  More than 50 percent of poll respondents indicated not having dental insurance of any kind, and almost half of that group said they skipped getting dental care or check-ups in the past year due to its cost.

Whether or not someone has a normal source of care is also an important factor in determining health care outcomes because those with a personal dentist or doctor are more likely to seek care. Almost 40 percent of poll respondents, however, said they do not have a personal dentist or oral health provider, and almost 80 percent of those respondents said its been more than five years since they last visited a dentist or dental clinic.

The poll was funded by the foundation and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. The poll was conducted last year from Sept. 20 through Oct. 14 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,680 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone, including landlines and cell phones, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 points.

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