Photo by Anna Shvets:

A nationwide survey released today by revealed the reasons why Americans are delaying dental care even after dental offices have re-opened after COVID-19 closures. Over 1,214 adults across the United States were asked, “What issues have made you put off dental work?” Respondents had the option of selecting one or more of the following answers:

High out-of-pocket costs
Fear it will be painful
Lack of insurance
Dental plan won’t cover
Time-off needed for recovery
Your preferred dentist is out-of-network
None of the above

For those who had postponed dental care, high out-of-pocket costs was the top reason. One-in-five survey respondents (19.6 percent) indicated that this was a reason they had delayed dental care. 13 percent gave fear of pain as a reason dental care was put off. Interestingly, this fear was much more prevalent among adults in the 18-24 year-old age segment than for seniors are 65 and older. 23.6 percent of survey respondents in the 18-24 age group cited fear of pain as a reason dental care was postponed compared to less than 9 percent of seniors. Men were also slightly more likely than women to avoid dental care because of a fear of pain. 14.1 percent of men delayed dental care due to a fear of pain in contrast to women, where 12.6 gave this answer.

Dental insurance in and of itself did not eliminate delayed care. 9.5 percent of respondents postponed dental care because their dental plan did not cover the treatment and 4 percent reported care was delayed because their dentists were out-of-network. President and survey author Avery Smith commented, “Dental insurance doesn’t have standardized benefits so it’s critical to review benefits and out-of-pocket charges before enrolling in a plan. While there are many quality plans in the market, a consumer still needs to read a plan’s fine print regarding covered services, dentist participation, waiting periods, and maximum annual benefits.”

Another interesting finding of the survey concerned senior citizens’ dental care. An earlier 2014 National Health Interview found 7.2 percent of seniors did not get dental care services due to cost. However,’s 2022 survey found 20.8 percent of seniors had delayed care on account of high out-of-pocket costs. The reason for this sharp increase is not clear because of differences in population sampling between the two surveys as well as differences in economic conditions between 2014 and 2022. One contributing factor to dental access problems for seniors is that Original Medicare does not include routine dental coverage.

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