Oral Health

Alabama’s #12 Health Concern

Oral health has a significant impact in the overall health and well-being of a population. Maintaining good oral health is crucial to preserving health in general as dental caries is largely a preventable disease. Improving oral health for a population is challenging since factors that affect oral health care range from environmental and behavioral to infrastructure. Specifically, barriers to oral health care often stem from lack of access. Chief factors that drive poor access to oral health care in Alabama are the availability of oral health care providers and lack of insurance coverage.

Alabamians identified oral health as the twelfth greatest current health concern in Alabama. The Oral Health Branch of the ADPH is dedicated to preventing dental disease for Alabama’s citizens by promoting and developing quality, cost-effective community and school-based preventive, educational, and early treatment programs which emphasize elimination of oral health disparities. The Oral Health Branch utilizes several programs including oral health education, community water fluoridation, and dental screening to accomplish its goals.

These indicators were chosen because they examine different aspects of oral health. The rate of dentists to population examines access to care. The percent of Medicaid children receiving dental care examines utilization of dental care services among that childhood population. The percent of adults visiting a dentist for any reason within the past year examines how adults in Alabama, regardless of insurance coverage, utilize dental care. Finally, the percent of BCBS patients with a dental visit examines how insured Alabamians utilize dental care services.

Alabama Oral Health Highlights

  • Dental clinic visits among Alabama adults are significantly lower than the United States.
  • Alabama has the fifth worst percentage of adults visiting a dentist within the last year in the nation.
  • Alabama has a higher rate of dentists per population than the United States.
  • Urban counties in Alabama have a rate of dentists per population that is more than twice the rate of rural counties in Alabama.
  • Less than half of eligible Medicaid children had a paid dental claim in the last year.
  • There was no significant difference between urban and rural counties with regards to utilization of dental services for Medicaid children.
  • Adults 65 and over have the highest utilization of dental services among BCBS claims by a wide margin. A likely explanation for this phenomenon is that neither Medicaid nor Medicare pays for dental services for adults.
  • BSBS patients in urban counties had better utilization of dental services than patients in rural counties.

Health Indicators

The following indicators have been selected for use in developing a benchmark or starting point for measuring the current state and monitoring future changes in the state of oral health in Alabama:

Resources


Page last updated: April 14, 2017