Survey: Many delaying dental care, and avoiding smiles

By the CDHP team

A new survey reveals that dental care access and affordability continue to pose obstacles for many Americans. Nearly four in 10 adults (37%) surveyed said that during the past 12 months, either they or a family member have delayed seeing a dentist because of concerns about out-of-pocket costs.

In the same survey, roughly one-third (32%) of respondents reported that either they or a family member have “a toothache or other problem with [their] teeth or gums that needs to be addressed.” These results for these two questions are virtually unchanged from September 2013, when Wakefield Research last asked these questions, as commissioned by the Children’s Dental Health Project.

35% of parents answering the survey said they “sometimes avoid smiling or do other things that make it harder for people to see” what their teeth look like.

We hope to see these percentages drop over time. In the past few years, more children and young adults have gained dental coverage — thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s new health insurance marketplaces and expansion of state Medicaid programs. That’s important because coverage is the gateway for accessing care, and preventable dental disease can persist through the lifespan, affecting a child’s ability to learn and an adult’s ability to earn.

Indeed, 35% of parents answering the survey said they “sometimes avoid smiling or do other things that make it harder for people to see” what their teeth look like. We can't help but wonder how this impacts their children, or their ability to look for a job in today's service economy.

Even for those with excellent dental coverage, the best way to reduce such obstacles is to prevent the disease in the first place. There are important opportunities for private insurers and public programs such as Medicaid and CHIP to prioritize prevention and treat tooth decay as the chronic condition that it is. By preventing transmission, stopping the disease in its tracks and providing families with the tools they need to maintain optimal oral health, we will save money and reduce suffering.

That would be a big reason to smile.

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Did you know?

75% }
of American Indian/Alaskan Native children have experienced caries by age 5.
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