In January, Governor Steve Beshear delivered his Commonwealth address and stressed the importance of improving the health of our residents in hopes of attracting and retaining good paying jobs for the citizens of Kentucky. Governor Beshear mentioned several issues related to health including efforts to improve dental care for Kentuckians.
In February, Governor Beshear also launched the Kentucky Health Now initiative, which among other priorities, sets goals to increase adult dental visits by 10% by the year 2019. Recently, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky released the results of a recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) about Kentucky oral health, which included questions about adult dental visits, dental insurance, income level, health status, and whether or not their physicians inquired about their dental health. The KHIP backs up what public health advocates are working towards in the addressing the needs of Kentuckians.
The poll revealed that about 5 out of 10 (48%) Kentucky adults with incomes at or below 138% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) reported visiting a dentist or dental clinic within the past year. In addition, 6 out of 10 (60%) adults with incomes between 138% and 200% FPL, and more than 8 out of 10 (81%) Kentucky adults above the 200% FPL indicated they had visited a dentist or dental clinic in the past year.
Geographic regions also play a role in access to adult dental care. The poll revealed that 7 out of 10 (71%) adults living in non-Appalachian counties had seen a dentist in the past year, compared to 51% of adults living in Appalachian counties.
Routine dental care is essential for all individuals to maintain their overall health and well-being. Recognizing that poor oral health can lead to detrimental effects on a person’s quality of life due to pain and suffering caused by dental problems, as well as negative effects on a person’s ability to work and eat can help us know how to tackle this issue. This poll as well as the Governor’s initiative sheds light on oral health and can help continue the conversations to turn the tide on oral health in Kentucky.