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Dental insurance: Why are fewer Americans going to the dentist now than before the pandemic?

A new study suggests that a third of people have not had a dental check-up since before the pandemic, risking the need for more significant work in future.

Fewer Americans are going to the dentist than before the pandemic
ZLIKOVEC / ZLIKOVEC - Archivo Europa Press

The American Dental Association advises a check-up every six to twelve months to ensure your teeth stay in tip-top condition. Good oral health is important to overall well-being but a trip to the dentists can feel slightly daunting.

A new study has found that many people have not been in years, with a significant proportion not having visited since before the pandemic. Dental aligner manufacturer Byte have carried out a survey of 1,000 Americans’ dental practices, to better understand why so many people put off the annual check-up.

They found that one in three American have not been to the dentist since the start of the pandemic, more than two and a half years ago. Many medical practitioners concur with this study, confirming that they frequently see patients who have gone years without a routine check.

Chief clinical officer, Dr Arwinder Judge said: “A lot of the patients that come to Aspen Dental haven’t been to the dentist in about 10 years or more.”

Why are so many people skipping their trip to the dentist?

The study from byte also outlined the main reasons given for not getting their teeth checked. Unsurprisingly, cost concerns and fears about going to the dentist ranked as the top two reasons.

The most common reasons for delaying dental visits were:

  1. Cost (59%): Respondents said it’s too expensive
  2. Fear (44%): Being too anxious or afraid of the dentist
  3. Avoidance (39%): Just don’t want to go
  4. Procedure (34%): Worried about needing a procedure
  5. Coverage (33%): Not having dental insurance

High inflation and economic pressures have harmed finances in households across the country and many are having to go without essentials. With this in mind, it is no surprise to see that the cost of dental visits is the number one reason.

But avoiding the dentist in a bid to save some dollars may be a false economy. Failing to get a regular check-up could mean that underlying problems are allowed to escalate and may eventually require major treatment when it becomes painful. The same is true for those skipping visits because they are worried of an unpleasant experience.

Failing to visits the dentist regularly makes significant, and likely expensive and uncomfortable, work more likely in future.

Dr Sodabeh Etminan, dental director at the University of Illinois’ Mile Square Health Center, warns: “We’re seeing a lot of bigger cavities because patients weren’t coming in to get them treated when they were smaller.”