Aetna, Columbia University dental study

Oct. 11, 2010
Study shows that 61% of participants plan to see dentist as a result of online education.

HARTFORD, Connecticut--Aetna has announced the results of a study demonstrating that online education was effective in encouraging people with dental pain to visit the dentist.

The Pain and Sensitivity study was performed by Aetna Dental, in partnership with Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

David Albert, DDS, MPH, associate professor at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and the principal investigator for the study noted, “It was surprising to find that approximately 97% of the study participants reported experiencing pain or sensitivity, and of those, nearly 5% reported missing an average of four days of school or work due to their pain and sensitivity experience.”

The study also revealed that:

• Sixty-one percent of people surveyed said the information they received from the Web site had influenced them to visit the dentist.
• Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said what they learned would help them change how they handled their dental pain.
• Five percent of respondents admitted missing work or school because of their pain and almost 12% said they often change their nonwork activities because of it.
• Eighty-one percent of participants had dental insurance.

“The results of this study are promising because they show that it is possible to influence people to pursue dental care and pursue it earlier,” said Mary Lee Conicella, DMD, Aetna’s chief dental officer.

“An increase in regular dental care can lead to a better quality of life for people and increased productivity at work or school. In addition, early treatment of oral health problems reduces the likelihood of developing a more serious condition later on, leading to a healthier and more productive population overall.”

To recruit participants for the study, Columbia University researchers invited subscribers of the Aetna Member Essentials online newsletter to its secure dental pain and sensitivity website. More than 450 people who were experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity took part in the study.

The goals of the study were to determine whether online education could effectively influence people with dental pain to visit the dentist or change the way they were treating their pain.

People who visited the site were given the opportunity to take a survey to assess their dental pain, followed by a short educational module. Participants were then engaged in a brief post survey to measure what they had learned from the educational portion.

The study was partially funded by the Center for Advanced Information Management at Columbia, which is supported by the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Innovation.

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