Background: About one-third of adults with diabetes have severe oral complications. However, limited previous research has investigated dental care utilization associated with diabetes. This project had two purposes: to develop a methodology to estimate dental care utilization using claims data and to use this methodology to compare utilization of dental care between adults with and without diabetes.
Methods: Data included secondary enrollment and demographic data from Washington Dental Service (WDS) and Group Health Cooperative (GH), clinical data from GH, and dental-utilization data from WDS claims during 2002-2006. Dental and medical records from WDS and GH were linked for enrollees continuously and dually insured during the study. We employed hurdle models in a quasi-experimental setting to assess differences between adults with and without diabetes in 5-year cumulative utilization of dental services. Propensity score matching adjusted for differences in baseline covariates between the two groups.
Results: We found that adults with diabetes had lower odds of visiting a dentist (OR = 0.74, p < 0.001). Among those with a dental visit, diabetes patients had lower odds of receiving prophylaxis (OR = 0.77), fillings (OR = 0.80) and crowns (OR = 0.84) (p < 0.005 for all) and higher odds of receiving periodontal maintenance (OR = 1.24), non-surgical periodontal procedures (OR = 1.30), extractions (OR = 1.38) and removable prosthetics (OR = 1.36) (p < 0.001 for all).
Conclusions: Patients with diabetes are less likely to use dental services. Those who do are less likely to use preventive care and more likely to receive periodontal care and tooth-extractions. Future research should address the possible effectiveness of additional prevention in reducing subsequent severe oral disease in patients with diabetes.