Surveys Show Older Adults Delayed Dental Care More Than Any Other Care During Pandemic

March 22, 2022

CareQuest Institute calls for Medicare dental benefit as America faces anticipated pandemic-related spike in oral health needs 

new analysis has shown that older adults delayed dental care more than any other health care during the pandemic, CareQuest Institute for Oral Health announced today. 

CareQuest Institute – a leading national nonprofit focused on creating a more accessible, equitable, and integrated oral health system – is reiterating its call for dental coverage to be added to Medicare, which would expand access to oral health for seniors and people with disabilities, improve health outcomes, and reduce the deep racial inequities that exist in our health system.  

CareQuest Institute analyzed responses from three surveys of Medicare beneficiaries conducted by federal health officials. It released several key findings from the analysis today, including:  

  • 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries (21%), or 13 million people, delayed some form of health care due to the disruption caused by COVID-19. 

  • Nearly 44% of those who delayed care, or 5.7 million people, put off dental care — a higher rate than any of the other seven types of care, including medical treatment, medical surgery, and vision or hearing services. 

  • Between the summer and fall of 2020, the likelihood of delaying dental care fell in white and Hispanic participants, while Black participants who delayed dental care increased from 36% to 45% in the same period. 

“We continue to advocate that dental care be covered by Medicare because it’s a commonsense solution to the many barriers that millions of people, including older adults, face when accessing health care,” said Michael Monopoli, DMD, MPH, MS, FACD, FICD, vice president of grant strategy at CareQuest Institute. “It’s also a way for us to address some of the many adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a likely increase in oral disease because of delayed care.” 

Strengthening Medicare by including dental coverage would also help counter the likely scenario revealed by the surveys: that America will experience a pandemic-related spike in tooth decay and other forms of oral disease.  

A 2021 CareQuest Institute poll revealed that 8 in 10 voters favored the inclusion of dental benefits in Medicare. CareQuest Institute and its long-standing partners have been fiercely advocating for the dental benefit inclusion.  

Older adults in the US face barriers to accessing dental care, including cost of care, lack of transportation, and difficulty navigating the oral health care system. In 2021, over 26 million Medicare beneficiaries lacked dental coverage, exacerbating older adults’ risk for poor oral health outcomes. Without coverage, dental care can impose significant out-of-pocket costs on older adults and many don’t receive regular routine dental services. Disruptions in access to dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic further worsened oral health disparities.  

Click here to read the full CareQuest Institute analysis.  

Direct Media Inquiries to:   
Kristin LaRoche   
klaroche@carequest.org   
857-275-5038   

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About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health®   

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in grantmaking, research, health improvement programs, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders, to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone. To learn more, visit carequest.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.  

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