Are Arizonans becoming more aware of the vital link between oral health and overall well-being?

According to “Examining Oral Health and Wellness in Arizona,” Delta Dental of Arizona’s 2023 survey providing unique insight into oral and overall health behaviors in our state, most Arizonans (96%) believe that their oral health is very, if not extremely, important to their overall health. The report demonstrates a strong knowledge among the various generations of the impact of preventive oral health care and identifies the significance of dental insurance in obtaining care. Additionally, 96% of parents in Arizona think their child’s oral health is important to their overall health and are actively making sure their children adhere to recommended oral care guidelines.

Michael Jones is president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona.

The survey also reports the ways in which individuals think about oral health and approach their own care is directly linked to their generation. While most Arizonans (77%) understand the direct connection between oral health and overall health in general, Baby Boomers are less likely than other generations to know of the connection oral health has to dementia, kidney disease, chronic lung disease, high blood pressure and respiratory health. Baby Boomers are also more likely to brush their teeth in order to prevent tooth decay (80% versus 60%), while younger generations list cosmetic reasons along with preventative measures.

Additional generational findings:

  • Baby Boomers and Gen X are significantly more likely than Millennials to agree that preventative checkups reduce the chances of experiencing serious dental health issues (71% versus 47%).
  • Gen X and Millennials are afraid to go to the dentist in higher numbers than Baby Boomers and, curiously, Gen Z (20% versus 7%).
  • Gen X and Millennials are the most likely to have lost sleep due to a dental issue than Baby Boomers and Gen Z (31% versus 16%).
  • Millennials and Gen Z are most likely to want better coverage for braces and retainers than their older counterparts (47% versus 12%).

To advance our mission to create a better path to health and wellness, Delta Dental of Arizona is focused on engaging the community around whole person health, supporting innovative programs and providing equitable access to care.

Earlier this year, Delta Dental of Arizona, through its Foundation, awarded grants to 33 non-profit organizations totaling more than $740,000 to support projects and services promoting good oral health practices, increasing access to dental care and—for the first time—supporting food insecurity programs for underserved children, pregnant women, seniors and adults. The Foundation board was intentional in updating its guidelines as there are thousands of individuals in our community that struggle with food insecurity daily. These individuals and their families likely also have unmet dental needs, and without access to proper nutrition no amount of preventive care or education can protect them from long-term oral health issues.

In addition to this, after piloting the program for nearly a year at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, Delta Dental of Arizona and the Banner Health Foundation are pleased to announce the expansion of the Hospital Oral Care and Periodontal Disease Education (HOPE) program protocol to Banner’s 28 acute-care hospitals. The program was implemented to help lower hospital-acquired pneumonia and increase medical outcomes in hospitalized patients. The expansion will enable all Banner medical centers to implement the oral health protocol, potentially serving up to 300,000 patients each year.

And effective April 1, 2024, most our dental plans will give children and adults with special health care needs access to increased benefits. These benefits will include additional visits to the dentist’s office and/or consultations that can be helpful prior to the first treatment to help patients learn what to expect and what is needed for a successful dental appointment, extra dental cleanings, and necessary treatment delivery modifications.

Finally, we are working to support access to health and wellness statewide through our work with Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH) on Dental Connect, the Delta Dental of Arizona Oral Health Clinic at St. Vincent de PaulPhoenix Children’s Hospital, and more.

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Author: Michael Jones is president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona as well as president of the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation.