Delaying dental care is common, survey shows

If all of us were required to make a Top Ten list of where we would like to visit, not too many of those lists would include a dentist's office. In the movies and on television, those trips have been portrayed as sweat-inducing and horrifying.

This fear, with modern dental technology, is just not justified. Gone are the days of white-knuckled patients terrified by crude dentistry.

The biggest fear in today's world just may be the financial impact on you and your family after your visit to the dentist's office, according to a new survey commissioned by the non-profit Children's Dental Health Project.

A new survey reveals that dental care access and affordability continue to pose obstacles for many Americans. Nearly four in 10 adults (37%) surveyed said that during the past 12 months, either they or a family member have delayed seeing a dentist because of concerns about out-of-pocket costs.

Chances are you or someone you know has had a toothache at one time or another. Did you quickly run to the phone to make an appointment with your dentist? Chances are the answer to that question is no.

In the same survey, roughly one-third (32%) of respondents reported that either they or a family member have “a toothache or other problem with [their] teeth or gums that needs to be addressed.” These results for these two questions are virtually unchanged from September 2013.

Government certainly can play a role in allaying the financial burdens.

Even for those with excellent dental coverage, the best way to reduce such obstacles is to prevent the disease in the first place. There are important opportunities for private insurers and public programs such as Medicaid and CHIP to prioritize prevention and treat tooth decay as the chronic condition that it is. By preventing transmission, stopping the disease in its tracks and providing families with the tools they need to maintain optimal oral health, we will save money and reduce suffering.

It's time to make going to the dentist as important as getting new glasses or getting a yearly physical. We need to shelf our fears of physical and financial consequences. Once we reach that point than we can smile from ear to ear without any fears.