(Family Features) What do 155 million American adults have in common? They did not go to the dentist last year. Cleaning and check-up appointments are essential to both your oral health and overall health. However, many barriers often stand in the way of getting the care you need.
Maybe you lack dental insurance or don’t have enough time to take off of work. Perhaps you simply cannot afford it. For many, there may not be a dental practice nearby – if so, you may live in a “dental desert.”
Finding care is not always easy for the more than 47 million people living in dental shortage areas that lack primary dental care providers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
What causes “dental deserts”?
These shortage areas or “dental deserts” exist for two reasons: supply of dentists and location preferences.
Research from the Health Resources and Services Administration indicates the number of dentists in every state does not meet the demand for care – a problem that is projected to increase over the next 10 years. By 2025, the dentist deficit is projected to double despite new dental schools opening and dentists joining the workforce.
Other barriers to dental care
Cost is another barrier that prevents Americans from getting the preventative care they need. The Affordable Care Act does not require health plans to cover dental services for adults, and without that insurance coverage, many decide to delay dental care.
A recent survey commissioned by Aspen Dental found that nearly two out of five American adults (39 percent) have limited access or will delay dental care due to their financial situation – a number that has increased by nearly 8 percent in the past two years. Even so, 80 percent were aware that postponing or delaying routine visits could cost them more money in the long run.
Find the care you need
Consumers are demanding more choices and better access to quality health care, seeking convenience and affordability.
“Patients are looking for dental practices that have their schedules in mind,” said Dr. Melissa Thompson, Aspen Dental practice owner. “They want convenient hours like evenings and even weekends. They want dental plans that are easy to understand and afford, and they want a dental office that is located nearby.”
What can you do?
Whether you live in a dental desert or not, oral health is something that can impact your overall health and wellness. Follow these oral health tips to avoid more serious dental issues later in life:
- Schedule regular preventative dental appointments at least twice a year.
- Brush your teeth two times a day with a soft-bristled brush.
- Choose a toothpaste with fluoride in it.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or sooner if you’ve been sick or the bristles are frayed.
- Floss once a day to remove plaque from between your teeth that can eventually harden into tartar.
Learn more about managing your dental health at AspenDental.com.