Improving the Oral Health of Rural Veterans

Published 11/28/2022

Accessing routine dental care is challenging for many veterans — only 15% are eligible for dental care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). It’s even harder for veterans living in rural communities, according to a report from the American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) and CareQuest Institute. 

Key findings from the report show that rural veterans are: 

  • more likely to rate their dental health as “poor” (35.5%) compared with urban veterans (28.5%) 
  • less likely to qualify for dental care coverage through the VHA (49.3% said did not qualify) compared with urban veterans (39.6% said did not qualify) 
  • more likely to have or need dentures (39.8%) compared with urban veterans (23%) 
  • paying higher out-of-pocket costs for dental care compared with urban veterans 

Veterans are disproportionately concentrated in rural areas, so it is essential to understand and find solutions for these inequities. The report recommends several steps, including expanding eligibility for dental care through the VHA, shifting to value-based care models in dentistry, improving data collection, and expanding the use of telehealth. 

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