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null Annual dental visits are as important to overall health as regular wellness visits

Annual dental visits are as important to overall health as regular wellness visits

For Immediate Release:  2018-09-25

Contact:  Liz Martin, (315) 671-6408

Thirty percent of adults in Central New York did not visit a dentist within the past year, according to the results of a new survey commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“The lack of annual routine dental care by such a large segment of the population is surprising, because 74 percent of respondents report having a regular dentist,” said Richard Lockwood, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. The American Dental Association recommends that everyone visit his/her dentist for an exam and cleaning at least once a year (and preferably once every six months). 

Good dental care isn’t just about checking for cavities and gum disease. Many diseases that affect the entire body often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms, reports the Academy of General Dentistry.

The following health conditions may be identified by a dentist during a routine oral exam:

  • Diabetes
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Cancers of the head, neck, mouth and throat
  • Osteoporosis
  • AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
  • Autoimmune diseases, including Sjogren’s syndromerheumatoid arthritis and lupus 
  • Celiac disease
  • Anemia
  • Chronic kidney disease

“People should view routine dental care the same way they view other routine medical care, such as wellness visits, standard immunizations, and screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and various cancers,” said Lockwood. “You shouldn’t just go to the dentist when you think there’s something wrong.” 

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield commissioned One Research to conduct an online general population survey of adults who live in 39 upstate New York counties and are ages 18 and older. Two-thousand individuals completed the survey. Data were weighted to census targets of age, sex, race and ethnicity, and were tested at a 95 percent confidence interval, assuring that results accurately represent upstate New York adults. 

Respondents’ top three reasons for not visiting a dentist:

  • 40 percent believe there is no need if they don’t have signs of a tooth problem
  • 24 percent are concerned about the cost
  • 16 percent expressed fear

Among adults who do not receive once-a-year cleanings, about one-third said a cash incentive or gift card would motivate them to get cleanings. Seventeen percent want a dentist located closer to where they live or work, and 16 percent want a dentist who participates in their dental insurance network. 

“For help finding a dentist who meets your needs, visit your health insurer’s website,” advised Lockwood, “which may list nearby dentists who accept new patients.” 

An Excellus BlueCross BlueShield infographic containing tips for better dental care is available free to download at a PDF

View complete survey results at PPT.

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit