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A new study suggests that 6 per cent of the total U.S. population would rather visit a dentist within a year than a general medical provider like a physician or nurse. (DTI/Photo courtesy of Valeriy Velikov)
Dec 19, 2011 | News USA

More Americans see dentists rather than doctors

by Dental Tribune International

NEW YORK CITY, NY, USA: Despite health care reform initiated by the Obama administration, Americans have increasingly cut back on their visits to a doctor. A new study, jointly conducted by the New York University Colleges of Nursing and Dentistry, now suggests that almost 20 million or 6 per cent of the total U.S. population would rather visit a dentist within a year than a general medical provider like a physician or nurse.

The study is the first of its kind to have compared the number of visits in children and adults to general health care providers and dentists. For their analysis, the researchers used data taken from more than 31,000 individuals that took part in the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2008.

Over one third of children, who did not see a general medical provider that year, visited a dentist, whereas only 13 per cent of adults saw a dentist despite having access to general health care through private health insurance or Medicare.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that dentists should play a more prominent role in identifying chronic physical illnesses by using methods such as regular blood pressure checks or X-rays to detect risks for systematic diseases.

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Oark, California, found that patient visits to physicians in the U.S. have dropped significantly since 2009. According to the non-profit health organisation, visits to general medical providers plunged from 160 million to only 129 million per quarter in 2011.

In contrast, latest figures released by the National Centre for Health Statistics show that dental visits by children and the elderly increased during the last decade, and dipped only slightly in adults.

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