According to the American Dental Association, almost half (47%) of Americans aged 30 and over suffer from periodontal disease – their gums are infected with bacteria. Untreated, the infection can destroy the structures that keep your teeth affixed in your jawbone.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says that 23% of American children 2 to 11 have untreated dental cavities, with an average of 1.6 decayed primary teeth and 3.6 primary teeth with surface decay (surface decay, untreated, results in cavities). Just over 75% of American children visited a dentist last year, according to the American Dental Association.
Unlike many health conditions, tooth decay is largely preventable with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups and cleanings. People who have dental insurance are 2.5 times more likely to visit the dentist than those who lack insurance. But 108 million Americans lack dental coverage.
Dental Care In The Emergency Room
The Affordable Care Act has helped make pediatric dental insurance more accessible, but has done virtually nothing to help American adults keep their teeth and gums healthy. This is nothing new, the Nation’s record of making adult dental care affordable and accessible is dismal.
Surgeon General David Satcher, who served during the Clinton administration, referred to dental and oral diseases as a “silent epidemic.” From 2008 through 2010, more than 100 people who went to hospital emergency rooms with dental conditions died from their ailment.
Dental pain is currently the fourth most common reason that people go to the ER. In an April 2015 study, he American Dental Association found* that the number of dental emergency department visits rose from 2.11 million in 2010 and to 2.18 million in 2012. The ADA data doesn’t extend past 2012, but the Association notes that nationally, the number of dental ER visits have been growing faster than overall ED visits, and Medicaid alone pays $520 million every year on dental ER visits.
While the Emergency Room is the last resort for the uninsured and underinsured patient, it’s far from the best option. Oral pain and infection can be treated by emergency room physicians, but the underlying dental problem is often not resolved. People are left with a big ER bill, and will either need to see a dentist or risk returning to the ER again for more short-term care when the problem worsens.
Making Dental Care Affordable
Pop-up clinics, run by nonprofit groups such as Remote Area Medical, are typically funded by private donors, and staffed almost entirely by volunteer medical professionals.
Some states are moving to provide or expand free dental care clinics. As an example, WellPartners Dental and Eye Health in Columbia, South Carolina recently transformed their public health facility into a state of the art clinic with free dental and eye services for underserved and uninsured people.
WellPartners, like many public dental clinics, provides care to people who don’t have dental insurance and whose income is at or below 200% of federal poverty level – for example, a family of 4 with a household income of $48,600 or less
What happens if a person’s income is a bit too high to qualify for public health programs, but too low to enable them to purchase dental insurance? For many, the best option is a dental savings plan.
Dental savings plans fill the gap for uninsured people around the nation. With a dental savings plan, people can save 10%-60% on their dental care. Many savings plans provide access to free or deeply discounted preventative care, enabling plan members to affordably address dental health issues before they become severe. Regular preventive care has been proven to reduce the severity of dental problems and the cost of fixing them.
What Do Dental Savings Plans Cost?
Dental savings plans, the affordable alternative to dental insurance, range from $79.95-$199.95 annually. There’s a plan for every budget and dental care need, whether you want to save on braces or root canals, dental implants or dentures, basic care or complex treatments. Plus, virtually all of the plans include additional free bonus benefits too, such as savings on vision and hearing care, prescriptions, and other wellness services.
The typical cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For a family, the cost of dental insurance is around $550, annually.
Dental insurance and dental savings plans both help people afford the preventive care that they need to keep their teeth, gums and mouth healthy. With regular checkups and cleanings, and good oral health practices at home, you’re much less likely to need costly treatments intended to salvage or replace decaying, weak teeth.
According to the Children’s Dental Health Project, children who have their first preventive dental visit by age one are less likely to have subsequent restorative or emergency room visits. Their average dental-related costs are almost 40% lower over a five-year period for children who receive their first preventive visit after age one ($262 compared to $546).
Older people also benefit from preventive care. An analysis of the public records of Medicare beneficiaries by researchers from the University of Maryland found that those seniors who accessed preventive dental care had significantly reduced needs for expensive restorative procedures and lower dental expenses than beneficiaries who saw the dentist only for treatment of oral problems.
How Do Dental Savings Plans Work?
As a plan member you have access to a network of dentists who have agreed to offer reduced rates to members. Some plans focus on statewide networks; while many plans have thousands of dentists participating nationwide.
Dentists like the plans because they don’t have to deal with insurance company red tape, plan members simply pay the reduced fee directly to the dentist.
And many of the dental savings plans offered by :DentalPlans also include savings on general healthcare needs, including telemedicine, vision and hearing services, prescriptions, chiropractic, and more. Dental savings plans can help make essential healthcare affordable for people who are under-insured, want to save on services not covered by their insurance, or those who have exhausted their benefits.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com or by calling 1-800-238-5163.