Marymount Faculty Uma Kelekar’s Dental Study Published

Marymount faculty Uma Kelekar, PhD, (an Associate Professor of Healthcare Management) collaborated with Shillpa Naavaal, BDS, MS, MPH, (VCU School of Dentistry) to publish two new studies that determined the hours lost on planned and unplanned dental visits for American adults and children at work or school.

The objective of the study was to estimate work or school hours lost to dental visits among adults aged 18 and older by the types of visits (emergency or unplanned; routine, planned, or orthodontic; or cosmetic) and to determine the factors associated with hours lost. The study concluded that dental problems result in hours lost from work and may adversely affect a person’s productivity. There is disparity in lost hours at work by race/ethnicity and dental care affordability.

“Our findings emphasize the need for improving access to preventive dental care in the community and schools,” Kelekar said. “If individuals do not have regular preventive dental care, this can delay the diagnosis of problems and in turn cause adults to lose time in seeking unplanned care. In the absence of dental insurance, some adults and children may turn to the emergency department for seeking this care.”

The study, published in the Preventing Chronic Disease journal, finds that Americans miss an average of 92.4 million work or school hours were missed annually for unplanned dental visits. The researchers also found adults and children with poor oral health and those who could not afford dental care lose more work hours for unplanned care than those with good oral health or affordable dental care. 

 “Emergency room care isn’t efficient or cost-effective,” Kelekar said. “Therefore, we need policies that can expand dental coverage to adults and/or integrate oral care with general health. Although Medicaid has made improvements in coverage for children, there are significant challenges in access among Medicaid beneficiaries specific to the availability of dentists.”

Uma is an Associate Professor of Healthcare Management at Marymount, where she teaches graduate-level courses in healthcare reimbursement, health economics, data analysis, and epidemiology. She serves as the program director and chair of the Healthcare Management program.

Her forthcoming research is on emergency-room dental visits and its associated charges in the United States and has been accepted for a journal which should get published in 2019.

Read the full study.