An Open Access article published in the Health Behavior and Policy Review Journal.
The full article is available as a PDF download.
Joan M. Davis, RDH, PhD
Justin T. McDaniel, PhD
Musa Yahaya, MBBS, MPH
Robert J. McDermott, PhD
Mental health issues occur among service members and veterans (SMVs). A cancerdiagnosis exacerbates these issues. Many veterans with poor mental health lack adequate dental care. We examined oral health and mental distress among SMV cancer survivors.
We retrieved data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We calculated theaverage number of mentally unhealthy days in the last 30 across categories of tooth removal (0, 1-5, ≥ 6 but not all, and all). We calculated state-based percentages of tooth removal (≥ 6 teeth) among SMV cancer survivors.
The greatest percentage of removal of ≥ 6 teeth among SMV cancer survivors occurred in Mississippi (50.3%), West Virginia (49.3%), and Kentucky (46.6%). Mental distress increased with the number of teeth removed. SMV cancer survivors with no history of tooth removal reported 2.08 mentally unhealthy days; 1-5 teeth removed, 2.34 days; ≥ 6 but not all, 3.20 days; and all teeth removed, 4.08 days.
The history of ≥ 6 or more teeth removed increased SMV cancer survivor risk for mental distress. Tooth loss was particularly prevalent among veterans in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia. Improving oral healthcare among veterans who are cancer survivors may reduce mental distress.