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Journal of the American Dental Association


Background: 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. Methods: 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 c2 tests were used to assess the relationship between oral health and dental visits, and diabetes. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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. Practical Implications: 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.