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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UTexas, Galveston Examines Barriers to Dental Care for Survivors of Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and University of Utah found that close to 60 percent of survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer reported no dental visit in the previous year compared with 52 percent of the same age- and -sex individuals from the general population without a history of cancer. Survivors were significantly more likely to report inability and delay in receiving necessary dental care than the comparison group. This research was conducted using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data from 2008 to 2012, and recently published in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.

Survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer may be at risk for developing oral complications or dental late effects, which may greatly diminish their quality of life. Due to this, the national guidelines recommend that survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer see their dentist a minimum of once every six months. Despite these guidelines, this study found that only about 22 percent of survivors had two or more visits annually. Several predictors of dental care use were identified in this study. For example, among survivors, being uninsured or having public insurance, and being younger at diagnosis were associated with lower dental care use. The Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the proportion of uninsured survivors of cancer, yet, it remains questionable whether it will improve dental coverage since adult dental benefits are neither included in the essential health benefits nor mandated. Therefore, to overcome the potential barriers to dental care for survivors of cancer, the study recommended implementing targeted interventions, such as, dental care outreach programs and preventive health education, especially for younger survivors and those without insurance.