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Oral Health in America

Far too many Americans experience poor oral health. Some of this is due to a…

  • August 16, 2018

Far too many Americans experience poor oral health. Some of this is due to a fear of seeing a dentist, but a lot has to do with the financial burden of maintaining good oral health.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America recently surveyed people in Washington, and found that sixty-one percent reported having lost a tooth or required an extraction due to oral health issues.

This increased to more than two-thirds as Washingtonians reach age 50 and older.

Nearly half of Washingtonians know they have dental issues that need to be taken care of now, yet two-thirds say they are likely to put off dental procedures due to concerns about the cost.

In fact, 72 percent of Washingtonians say unexpected dental procedures elicit more financial stress than paying taxes.

The survey reveals that nearly half of Washingtonians grade their oral health a “C” or below, and only 14 percent would give themselves an “A.”

While residents may be aware of their need for better dental care, the results of not addressing oral health issues can be severe: Twenty-two percent of Washingtonians report missing work because of oral or dental pain, and six in 10 adults have lost a tooth or needed an extraction due to oral health issues.

“The fear of unexpected costs is keeping Washingtonians from seeking proper dental care, and some simply can’t afford it at all,” said Dr. Randi Tillman, Chief Dental Officer at Guardian. “Obtaining proper care now helps avoid serious dental problems and expenses later, so we urge people to act now to address their oral health issues and to help others if they can.”

The survey also finds that less than half of Washingtonians (45 percent) have visited the dentist in the last 6 months, and only 17 percent have visited the dentist within the past year.

According to a recent Guardian Workplace Benefits Study, Dental Benefits: A Bridge to Oral Health & Wellness, nearly 60 percent of individuals who go to the dentist twice a year report excellent or very good oral health.

The same study also confirmed that those who regularly use their dental benefits for preventive care save money on major restorative costs in the future. Thus, visiting the dentist now for regular preventive care can save residents money on future work needed and save time on missed work days.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • The American Dental Association recommends taking a child to the dentist no later than their first birthday, yet six in 10 parents in Washington put off taking their child to the dentist until they are at least two years old, with a fifth (22 percent) waiting until their children are 4-6 years old.
  • Two-thirds of Washingtonians report using their teeth for something other than chewing or eating, such as to hold objects when their hands are full (49 percent).
  • Washingtonians say certain amenities would encourage them to go to the dentist office, such as noise canceling headphones (26 percent), television in treatment rooms (24 percent), onsite digital x-ray review technology (24 percent), massage systems for dental chairs (20 percent) and refreshments (20 percent).
  • Nine in 10 Washingtonians (92 percent) are more likely to choose a dentist if they know he or she gives back to the community.

In Washington, low-income residents who are elderly, medically fragile, or living with a disability do not have the means to obtain proper dental care.

For many, this means they are living with chronic dental conditions or dental diseases that go untreated due to cost and lack of dental coverage. To help meet their dental care needs, Guardian recently donated $125,000 to Dental Lifeline Network (DLN).

The services funded by the grant will begin to relieve the 147 dental cases currently backlogged in Washington due to insufficient funding as well as expand its services over the next two years.

As part of this effort, Guardian and DLN are encouraging Washingtonians to support this cause and invite local dentists and laboratories to volunteer their services. To support the effort to those who need it most, contact to learn how you can volunteer or to donate.

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