Veteran Oral Health

 

Veteran in a providers office

Picture this scenario: A group of veterans returns home from serving their country overseas. They’ve just experienced time away from family and friends, time marked by danger and uncertainty, time focused on survival. When they come home, shouldn’t the door to health care, including oral health care, be open for them? 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. Like many marginalized populations in the United States, veterans lack the oral health coverage and access they need to reach their full potential through optimal health. CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is beginning a journey to understand the scope of the problem, working with — and empowering — others to envision solutions.

The need is clear. According to CareQuest Institute and AIDPH research, compared to non-veterans, veterans have consistently higher rates of periodontitis, missing teeth, and filled teeth, even when controlling for other factors like chronic medical conditions and smoking status. Veterans are also more likely to have health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension that are associated with poor oral health and often lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients.  

In 2021, CareQuest Institute and the American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) partnered to begin exploring ways to improve veteran oral health care. The partnership will focus on studying the current state of veteran oral health and access to care and then developing data-driven recommendations informed by the veteran community. Both organizations believe that veterans need and deserve access to care in an integrated system that they have a voice in designing.  

Further, many veterans do not qualify for dental care from Veterans Affairs unless they have a pre-existing dental condition, a disability, or were a prisoner of war. Additionally, Medicare only pays for certain dental services patients receive in the hospital and Medicaid provides limited or no adult dental benefits in several states. 

In the coming weeks and months, CareQuest Institute and AIDPH will be publishing data and reports that highlight the need to provide this critical care to veterans. 

veteran oral health quote