Changes in Dental Utilization Patterns due to COVID-19 among Insured Patients in the US

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It has long been established that the demand for dental treatments is correlated with the availability of dental insurance and discretionary income in a household. Because of the coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19), widespread economic instability and changes in health-care systems are expected to have a major effect on dental use.

We examined variations in dental utilization among insured patients since the COVID-19 outbreak (during the period of practice closure and after reopening) using de-identified dental practice management data collected in 2019 and 2020. We looked at patient age, procedure types, insurance type, practice size, geographic area, and reopening status to see if there were any differences. The use of hierarchical regression models allowed us to investigate whether the rebound in dental office procedure volumes could be explained by features at the county-level.

However, even while dental usage among privately insured people had completely recovered by August 2020, utilization among the publicly insured population was still 7.54 percent lower than it had been before the pandemic began. In the weeks after the practice’s closure, the demand for teledentistry rose by up to 60 times. Geographic factors, such as median household income, percentages of rural or African American populations, and classifications of dental professional shortages, were shown to be substantially related with the number of operations done at dental offices in the study.

As a consequence of COVID-19, dental offices saw significant reductions in the number of procedures performed, particularly among patients who were insured by public insurance or who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods. During economic downturns, state health officials would be encouraged to adopt policies that would increase access to oral health care for vulnerable populations by implementing oral health promotion strategies and increasing the supply of dentists or mid-level dental providers in underserved areas, among other measures.

Categories: Dental