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06 September 2023

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oral health care in the U.S.


Background

The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on oral health care provided from July 2020 through December 2021 using national claims data.

Methods

Researchers analyzed deidentified quarterly claims from 2017 through 2021; 2017-2019 provided pre-pandemic data. Data were sorted into multiple treatment categories. Analyses compared pre-pandemic with post-pandemic procedure volumes and were stratified according to age groups: 0-5 years, 6-18 years, 19-64 years, ≥ 65 years.

Results

For children aged up to five years, use of sealants and topical fluorides other than varnish were considerably lower in 2021, as were direct operative and palliative procedures from 2020 through 2021. Only use of silver diamine fluoride, prefabricated crowns, and oral surgery increased significantly (P < .05) in some quarters.

For children aged six through 18 years, diagnostic, direct operative, periodontic, oral surgery, and palliative procedures were significantly lower in most of 2020 through 2021, and only prefabricated crowns and indirect operative procedures increased significantly in more than three quarters.

For adults aged 19 through 64 years, diagnostic and preventive procedures were significantly lower in three quarters, and direct operative, gingival surgery, endodontic and palliative procedures were significantly lower in most of 2020 through 2021. Only occlusal guards and scaling and root planing increased significantly in more than three quarters. For adults 65 years and older, direct operative, gingival and osseous surgery, and palliative procedures were significantly lower in more than three quarters; all other procedures increased significantly in more than three quarters.

Conclusions

The pandemic was associated with changes in the provision of oral health care that persisted for more than one year.

Practical Implications

Reductions in preventive procedure volumes across age groups younger than 65 years may have implications for longer-term effects of the pandemic.

Joseph Dill et al. "Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oral health care use in the United States through December 2021." JADA. 30 August 2023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2023.07.012.

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