According to a new report by the American Dental Association (ADA), more Americans are able to get access to a dental care, although a significant number still report that finances are the primary barrier preventing them from getting needed care.
Increased Access for All Americans
From 2000 to 2010, there was an increasing crisis in America, as more and more people reported that they were unable to get needed dental care. Now the ADA’s report says that trend has changed, with more Americans reporting that they were able to get dental care in 2012 than in 2004. According to the ADA report, which relied on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the proportion of Americans who could not get needed dental care in the last year fell from 18.2% in 2004 to 14.6% in 2012.
This improvement in access to the dentist occurred at every age group. The number of children and adolescents age 2-20 unable to get dental care fell from 10.3% to 6.3%, while the number of adults age 21 to 64 unable to get dental care fell from 23.4% to 19.7%, and the number of seniors unable to get dental care fell from 9.1% to 7.4%. Declines among children and non-elderly adults were both statistically significant.
Cost the Major Barrier, But Declining
There are many barriers that still kept Americans from getting needed dental care, with cost being the most important. Those who didn’t get needed dental care reported financial reasons most of the time. According to the ADA report 12.9% of Americans reported that financial barriers were keeping them from getting to the dentist. This is a statistically significant decline from 2004, when 13.9% of Americans reported that financial barriers kept them from the dentist. Supply-side problems (such as not having a dentist office nearby) accounted for only 0.7% of Americans’ avoidance of the dentist. This also represented a decline from 2004, when 1.7% of American reported supply-side problems with making it to the dentist.
Progress Behind, Challenges Ahead
The ADA report notes that although we have made progress, there are still likely to be challenges in the future. Of course, there are still nearly 15% of Americans who need dental care but haven’t gotten it. And the report authors note that if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to remove financial barriers keeping people from getting dental care, supply side problems could increase again.
Despite the existence of future challenges, we are happy to see positive news in dentistry.