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Dental Care Becoming a Luxury in U.S.

By on January 31, 2012
black boy smiling

Chances are if you have a great smile, you have a pretty good dentist. And if you have a good dentist you might be among the lucky ones with good insurance coverage.

In 2008, researchers say dental expenses were among the highest out-of-pocket health expenditures for U.S. consumers. A study ran by Paul Glassman, a dentist and director of the Pacific Center for Special Care at University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics found out-of-pocket dental expenses cost consumers $30.7 billion — 22.2 percent of total out-of-pocket health expenditures. And not only that, minority children were more likely to have untreated dental problems.

According to the study, 37% of African-American children, 41% of Hispanic children and 25% of white children have untreated tooth decay. Findings point to systemic barriers that have slowed change, like:

 — Limited evidence of best practice for most dental procedures has led to widespread variation in clinical decisions among dentists.

 — Government only pays for about 6 percent of dental care nationally, and dental practices and their patients are not part of a larger provider organization pushing for improvements.

— Incentives to implement quality improvement programs are few.

So while separate research supports that proper oral health can promote heart health, personal self-esteem, and can even benefit you in the workplace, disparities persist. As always basic teeth brushing and consistent flossing can be the best defense against tooth decay. All of us should also monitor our intake of sugary foods and beverages.

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