Last year marked a milestone year for dental care andinsurance.

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At the end of 2012, more than 187 million Americans had dentalcoverage, an increase of 11 million people from the previous year,new research finds.

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It's the first time that enrollment for dental insurance has hit60 percent of the U.S. population. The previous two years'enrollment was at 57 percent of the population, up from 55 percentin 2009.

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The enrollment numbers come from an annual joint report from theNational Association of Dental Plans and the Delta Dental PlansAssociation, which have been compiling numbers since 1994.

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Most of the reported growth in dental enrollment can beattributed to an increase in employment, researchers said.Additionally, there were three first-time company participants thatprovided data for the report accounting for about 1 percent of thetotal enrollment.

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“The recent launch of the state and federally facilitatedexchanges provides an additional avenue to expand dental coveragein future years,” NADP Executive Director Evelyn Ireland said.

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Whatever the reason, benefits insiders say the increase inenrollment is positive news for the industry.

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“[We're] pleased that the report shows more Americans haveaccess to dental insurance,” said Steven Olson, president and CEOof Delta Dental Plans Association.

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“Studies have shown that people with dental benefits visit thedentist more regularly, so increased access to dental coverageshould result in improved oral health across America,” he said.

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Additionally, the report found:

  • The trend toward DPPO products is continuing among commercialproducts with 78 percent of all commercial dental benefits.

  • The percent of enrollees making some financial contributiontoward their coverage was 99 percent for Discount plans, 93 percentfor DHMO plans, 94 percent for DPPO plans, but only 45 percent forDental Indemnity plans.

  • The population that receives dental benefits coverage throughindividual policies and products doubled from last year; up from2.4 percent to 5 percent.

  • Less than 0.5 percent of dental benefits are integrated withmedical policies and 99.5 percent are provided under a separatedental policy.

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