OBJECTIVE: This study compared yearly dental visits of diabetic adults with those of nondiabetic adults. For adults with diabetes, we compared the frequency of past-year dental visits with past-year visits for diabetes care, dilated eye examinations, and foot examinations. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study using a sample of 105,718 dentate individuals aged > or =25 years, including 4,605 individuals with diabetes who participated in the 1995-1998 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 38 states. RESULTS: Dentate adults (i.e., those with at least some natural teeth) with diabetes were less likely than those without diabetes to have seen a dentist within the preceding 12 months (65.8 vs. 73.1%, P = 0.0000). Adults with diabetes were less likely to have seen a dentist than to have seen a health care provider for diabetes care (86.3%); the percentage who saw a dentist was comparable with the percentage who had their feet examined (67.7%) or had a dilated eye examination (62.3%). The disparity in dental visits among racial or ethnic groups and among socioeconomic groups was greater than that for any other type of health care visit for subjects with diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: Promotion of oral health among diabetic patients may be necessary, particularly in Hispanic and African-American communities. Information on oral health complications should be included in clinical training programs. Oral and diabetes control programs in state health departments should collaborate to promote preventive dental services, and the oral examination should be listed as a component of continuous care in the American Diabetes Association's standards of medical care for diabetic patients.

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