Some consumers trying to save a few bucks in the poor economic climate have an unfortunate solution: delaying dental care.
More than one in three American adults (36 percent) have delayed or will delay dental care due to the uncertain U.S. economy and their lingering fears about their current financial situation, a survey has found.
The survey of more than 1,000 adults—conducted by ORC International and commissioned by Aspen Dental—also found that nearly half (45 percent) don’t currently have dental insurance, an issue even more significant among those with an annual income below $35,000 (61 percent).
Others said their low take-home pay is another reason they are delaying care.
“Since the recession began five years ago, the patients who walk through my doors have been increasingly stressed about whether they can afford the care they need,” said Dr. Nathan Laughrey, who owns Aspen Dental practices throughout Pennsylvania. “Many put it off until they just can’t wait any longer, which means that they wait until they’re in significant pain or having a dental emergency.”
According to research from the Pew Center on the States, more Americans than ever are turning to emergency rooms for dental problems. Preventable dental conditions were the primary reason ER visits for dental problems increased 16 percent from 2006 to 2009.
The survey also revealed a disconnect about the impact of oral health on overall health. Though most recognized that delaying dental care could cost them in the long-run, only one in 10 agree that routine dental visits for regular examinations and cleanings are “critical” to their overall well-being. Even in an emergency situation, only 57 percent of adults felt that going to the dentist to assess the situation was critical.
Dentists have long-warned of the connection between gum disease and serious health conditions such as diabetes and stroke.
The survey results are consistent with recent research showing a decline in health care spending. According to an April 2013 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the slowdown in health care spending has been driven by the broader economic downturn.