A Coming Surge in Oral Health Treatment Needs

State of Oral Health Equity in America 2021 
Research Report #1

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults faced barriers to receiving oral health care, increasing their risk of infection and the need for emergency hospital visits. And now, as unmet dental needs worsen while the pandemic lingers and people suffer the loss of jobs and dental insurance, providers could see a surge in oral disease among adults.

The prospects for this spike emerged from a recent, nationally representative survey of 5,320 adults commissioned by CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. The survey identified several troubling, simultaneous developments:

  • An estimated 6 million American adults have lost their dental insurance because of a job loss or benefits change that was caused by COVID-19.
  • Among those who cited COVID-19 as the reason for losing dental insurance, 65% reported having an oral symptom that often stems from a disease affecting teeth, gums, or other tissues in the oral cavity.
  • More than 1 in 10 (11%), or 28 million, adults have delayed getting dental care because of one or more concerns, including the cost of care, lack of insurance, or concerns about risk of exposure to the virus.

These findings, along with other barriers to care, are setting us on a path to see more oral disease and other systemic health conditions in the near future. Read more about how expanding dental coverage and increasing the use of teledentistry can address these issues and improve our health system in Part 1 of our new series, State of Oral Health Equity in America 2021. 

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