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Nearly one out of three adults in WNY steer clear of the dentist

Nearly one in three Western New York adults did not visit a dentist within the past year, according to the results of a new survey commissioned by Univera Healthcare.

“The lack of annual routine dental care by such a large segment of the population is surprising, because 78 percent of respondents report having a regular dentist,” said Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer.

The American Dental Association recommends that everyone visit a dentist for an exam and cleaning at least once a year.

Good dental care isn’t just about checking for cavities and gum disease. Many diseases that affect the entire body often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms, reports the Academy of General Dentistry.

Conditions dentists may be able to help identify during a routine oral exam include diabetes; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); cancers of the head, neck, mouth and throat; osteoporosis; AIDS; autoimmune diseases including Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus; celiac disease; anemia; and chronic kidney disease.

“People should view routine dental care the same way they view other routine medical care, such as wellness visits, standard immunizations, and screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and various cancers,” Vienne said in a news release. “You shouldn’t just go to the dentist when you think there’s something wrong.”

Univera commissioned One Research to conduct an online general population survey of adults who live in 39 upstate New York counties and are ages 18 and older. Two thousand individuals completed the survey. Data were weighted to census targets of age, sex, race and ethnicity, and were tested at a 95 percent confidence interval, assuring that results accurately represent upstate New York adults. Respondents gave three top reasons for not visiting a dentist:

  • 40 percent believe there is no need if they don’t have signs of a tooth problem
  • 24 percent are concerned about the cost
  • 16 percent expressed fear

“For help finding a dentist who meets your needs, visit your health insurer’s website,” Vienne advised.

To encourage routine dental care, Univera added a unique “cash back” Dental Rewards benefit to its small health insurance coverage and is offering it as an option for large groups.

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