Cost of Dental Care, Not Fear, Causes Many Americans To Neglect Their Teeth

July 17, 2013  |  

It’s not that Americans are terrified of dentists and their menacing tools. Many do not treat their teeth because of the towering costs of dental care. A new study outlined in the Wall Street Journal shows that lack of access to affordable dental care is the main culprit behind avoiding the dentist.

Among Americans without insurance, about 70 percent have at least one problematic dental care need that is unmet (e.g., missing teeth, bleeding gums, toothache), the 2013 Dental Care Affordability and Accessibility survey found. The lack of price transparency, WSJ adds, has delayed 62 percent of uninsured Americans from getting dental care.

Even those who have insurance find themselves neglecting their dental needs; nearly 60 percent have left their tooth issue untreated. Forty-four percent of insured Americans have not gone to the dentist for fear of high costs, the survey discovered. More than half of uninsured Americans did not go to the dentist last year and 12 percent don’t plan on seeing one in the next five years.

One survey found that the average amount of dental care out-of-pocket expenses, for both insured and uninsured Americans, was $873 per household. These costs exceeded the amount the out-of-pocket costs of prescriptions ($700). The survey also found that the average amount of cash spent on dental care was not much different for those with insurance. Americans without insurance spent $978 while those with insurance spent $1,007.

“People are neglecting basic dental care because of high prices and not knowing the fees prior to their visit,” said Jake Winebaum, CEO of Brighter.com, a site that provides a free alternative to dental insurance.

The 2011 Dental Care Affordability and Accessibility survey concluded that personal income was strongly correlated with frequency of dental visits. Thirty-three percent of those who earn less than $40,000 a year admitted to only paying the dentist’s office a visit once in the past 10 years. For those who earn more than $40,000 that figure falls down to 18 percent.

The survey was conducted with a nationally represented sample of 1,000 adults.

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