American Indian (AI), Alaska Native (AN), and Native Hawaiian (NH) populations report
higher rates of diabetes, poorer oral health, and fewer dental visits than their peers.
The authors aimed to identify relationships between oral health and dental visits
and diabetes diagnosis among AI, AN, and NH elders.
Data were obtained from a national survey of AI, AN, and NH elders 55 years and older
(April 2014-2017) and included 16,136 respondents. Frequencies and χ2 tests were used to assess the relationship between oral health and dental visits,
Nearly one-half of the elders reported receiving a diagnosis of diabetes (49.2%).
A significantly (P < .01) greater proportion of elders with diabetes reported a dental visit in the
past year (57.8%) than those without. Differences (P < .01) were found between reported diabetes and need for extraction, denture work,
and relief of dental pain. The authors found lower dental visit rates among elders
with diabetes who were low income, older, unemployed, not enrolled in the tribe, lived
on the reservation, and had only public insurance.
There is a need to increase oral health literacy and dental visits among elders with
diabetes and, more urgently, a need to focus on providing care for subpopulations
reporting lower visit rates.
Dental providers must serve as a referral resource for at-risk elders and must work
with and educate about the importance of oral health those who assist tribal elders
with diabetes management, including primary care physicians, certified diabetes educators,
nutritionists and dietitians, and public health care professionals.