Pandemic impact: decline in preventive oral health services raises concerns

New research from Delta Dental on oral healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic, published recently by the Journal of the American Dental Association, reported a significant decrease in the provision of preventive oral healthcare services when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The study, ‘Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on oral healthcare use in the United States through December 2021’, showed that there were significant decreases in preventive dental services that persisted for more than a year, particularly across all age groups under 65. These could reflect, in part, anecdotal reports of loss of employer-sponsored dental benefits, reluctance to seek care due to concerns about Covid-19 exposure, or staff shortages at dental offices. Study authors also found a significant increase in the delivery of night guards to adult patients. This may indicate a rise in stress-related teeth grinding that can crack or fracture teeth.

The research assessed the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on oral healthcare using national insurance claims data. The research team analysed claims by quarter from 2017 to 2019 and from July 2020 to December 2021, including 600 million submitted procedure codes. The study team intends to conduct follow-up research that will explore national oral health claims data from 2022.