Impact of COVID-19 on Dental Care Utilization and Oral Health Conditions in the United States

Published 06/02/2023

In this journal article, researchers from CareQuest Institute and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine examine the impact of COVID-19 on dental care use and oral health conditions among more than 430,000 patients at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in 2019 and 2020. Because FQHCs serve more than 28 million patients who are publicly insured or uninsured, live in poverty, or in rural areas, they provide a critical window into the needs of vulnerable populations.  

COVID-19 Effects on Oral Health 

Researchers found the impact of COVID-19 was more pronounced on dental visits than medical visits. In April 2020, for example, dental care utilization decreased by nearly 81% compared to 2019 and rebounded more slowly than medical utilization. 

They also observed a greater demand for oral surgery and teledentistry and less demand for preventive services. As a result of COVID-19, patients received more invasive dental procedures due to delayed treatment and experienced a higher risk of psychological stress-related dental conditions, such as tooth grinding, cracked teeth, and endodontic conditions.  

The authors encouraged “continued support for statewide policies to expand access to oral health care and oral health promotion strategies for vulnerable populations.” 

Read the article in JDR Clinical & Translation Research (subscription required)  

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