Veteran Oral Health: Expanding Access and Equity

Published 12/13/2021

Inequity in Veteran Dental Care

Roughly 19 million veterans live in the US, comprising about 6% of the total population. Those veterans are more likely to experience worse oral health outcomes — higher rates of tooth decay, higher rates of gum disease, and an increased need for restorative dental care — compared to nonveterans.

A forward-thinking white paper from CareQuest Institute and the American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) aims to shine a light on the social, structural, and individual drivers of these outcomes.

The paper is a result of convening many stakeholders across veteran organizations and oral health to review gaps in access for veterans and explore ways to address them. An evaluation of the landscape found:

  • 42% of veterans reported having had gum treatment or bone loss around their teeth, which is a significantly higher proportion than reported by nonveterans (27%).
  • Roughly 2 in 5 veterans described their oral health as fair or poor. This extrapolates to 8 million veterans with deficient oral health.
  • Nearly 24% of veterans live in rural areas, where consistent access to care can be challenging.

The paper identifies several strategic recommendations to improve access to and quality of care, including:

  • Expanding eligibility criteria for veterans to receive oral health services 
  • Expanding the role of Federally Qualified Health Centers and rural health clinics 
  • Advancing medical-dental integration in veteran health care

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