What’s the most common chronic disease of children all over the world? If you guessed diabetes, asthma or even early-childhood obesity, think again. The correct answer: tooth decay. For adults, the answer is the same. You might not think that a little tooth decay is so bad… until you look more closely at the trouble that can stem from a lack of basic dental care.
When an oral health problem as simple as a small cavity is found and treated early, it may have no lasting consequences (aside from some modest cost.) Unfortunately, not every child gets the dental treatment they need – even though pediatric dental coverage is considered an Essential Health Benefit under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-care watchdog group, about one in four American children have untreated tooth decay.
Adults in the U.S. fare no better: In fact, the oral health of older Americans is worse. About one-third of seniors have untreated tooth decay, and around the same percentage haven’t seen a dentist in at least one year. What’s more, a significant fraction are missing all of their natural teeth, and fully 25 percent of seniors suffer health problems related to tooth loss.
Needless to say, tooth decay and tooth loss are two different things. However, if decay isn’t treated in an effective and timely way, tooth loss can eventually follow – and that’s why access to dental care is so important for both kids and adults. Around 64 percent of Americans have dental coverage, almost all through plans offered by employers. But it is estimated that some 114 million have no dental insurance coverage at all.
The major reasons for the lack of dental coverage include the cost and availability of dental insurance. Additionally, close to 50 million people in the U.S. live in areas where access to dental care is limited. Significantly, both the lack of insurance and the scarcity of providers disproportionately affect people with lower incomes. That’s doubly unfortunate, because dental problems not only result in time lost from work, but can also negatively affect a person’s appearance – making it harder to get and keep a job where appearance counts.
So what happens when a small dental problem goes untreated for a period of time? In many cases, it gets bigger. Eventually, pain or loss of function (for example, the ability to eat solid food) may cause an individual to seek treatment wherever it is available. People who are desperate for dental treatment often end up in the emergency room of a nearby hospital. In fact, one study estimated that in a recent year, over 830,000 ER visits resulted from dental problems that were preventable.
But the emergency room isn’t an ideal place to get dental treatment. Most ERs don’t have a dentist on staff – so while acute symptoms and pain may be taken care of, the underlying causes of the dental problem are rarely fixed. In many cases, the relief is only temporary… and when the condition deteriorates, it may necessitate another visit to the ER. Eventually, the persistent tooth problems may lead to the extraction of teeth.
Don’t let this happen to you! While dental insurance may be out of reach, alternatives are available – including over 30 different dental savings plans available from DentalPlans. Unlike insurance, these plans offer cost savings on most dental procedures of 10-60% at participating providers in your area – and you can never max out on the benefits. Plus, there’s no pre-approval, no paperwork needed after you sign up, and you can use your plan benefits immediately. So if you need dental care, don’t wait until a little problem gets worse: Get the care you need today, and you’ll be smiling tomorrow.
Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.