Families struggle with dental care as government help dwindles

Many Americans have trouble affording dental care. Depending on what type of insurance they have or what state they live in, low to middle income people feel they have to go without dental care altogether.

If a person has private dental insurance, many patients have a difficult time paying their share. Medicaid patients have a hard time finding dentists who will take their insurance, according to Pew.

Another barrier to dental care for low-income adults is the relatively low reimbursement rates offered by state Medicaid programs. Extensive paperwork and oversight also limit the number of dentists willing to take Medicaid patients. (The ACA calls for even more intensive oversight and audits.) The result is poor access to preventive care for low-income people on Medicaid in much of the country, ultimately resulting in higher overall costs.

At least state laws require Medicaid and private dental insurers to provide coverage for children. Most states however, leave adults to fend for themselves. California, Virginia, South Carolina and Indiana are extending some additional dental coverage for adults.

Dental coverage through Medicaid has a poor history at best. Medicaid dental coverage is not the only coverage that is struggling to keep Americans healthy, Pew opines.

The problem is not limited to Medicaid. Most employer-sponsored insurance pays for only a portion of the cost of an annual checkup and a few fillings. For moderate-income people who need more extensive restorative work, out-of-pocket expenses can be unaffordable. In a recent survey, nearly four out of 10 respondents said they or a family member had put off seeing a dentist because of concerns about out-of-pocket expenses.

If people have dental problems without proper coverage they tend to delay dental card until it becomes an emergency. Once it is an emergency they go to the emergency room. Most ERs aren't properly equipped to treat dental emergencies so they just treat the pain without treating what caused the pain. The end result is the patients problem still exists while costing them more money.

The struggle for states to provide adequate adult dental care rolls on. Some states are starting to "get it" and realize it costs them more if patients use emergency rooms for dental care. Some insurances are starting to include dental care in their lower priced packages. Other states are expanding coverages to some adult dental care.

Until people can afford preventative dental care, the problem of getting people proper care will continue.

Finances squeezing dental care out of family budgets

Finances and dental care do not always go together. If it comes down to catching up on a car or house payment or that family vacation you have been dreaming about and dental care, dental care usually loses out.

A recent 108 page report by the Federal Reserve Board's Board of Governors, said this about family members:

  • 25% didn't get dental care when it was needed.
  • 15% went without a doctor visit.
  • 13% went without prescription medicine.
  • 11% went without prescription medicine.

    Many people who do have health insurance, don't have a sufficient dental plan. A co-payment system, especially for low income participants, is another barrier that prevents proper dental care. People are having trouble affording proper dental treatment.

    Several states have eliminated adult dental coverage under Medicaid altogether. Other states are considering dropping the coverage in their upcoming budgets. Add this fact to the lowering number of companies offering dental plans, and the number of people who can afford dental care is dropping.

    When people put off dental maintenance it could lead to bigger and more costly medical problems. If not properly insured or financed a trip to the emergency room usually follows. That trip to the emergency room will not only be more expensive but it will not properly treat the dental problem. Most emergency rooms are not equipped to handle dental emergencies.

    When finances are low and you have to make the tough decisions on what to spend your money on, try and keep in mind the importance of your dental health. You, your family and your smile will be glad you did.

Exciting parade in Winnebago, IL

Our Machesney Park, IL office attended the nearby annual Winnebago, IL 4th of July Parade. The team made a float decorated for the holiday.

Pictured below are some of the dental assistants. They dressed up for the occasion and even had a tooth fairy! The girls passed out goodie bags with toothbrushes and paste. It was an honor to attend, as well as a great time. We look forward to many more community events!

Soccer fun in Virginia

Family Dental of Richmond took part in the 2nd Annual Copa Telemundo Soccer Tournament recently. A total of 32 teams competed throughout the day for the championship.

More than 2,000 people came to show their support for their loved ones or their favorite team. It was a fun a day for everyone, the sun was shining and so were we.

Our booth allowed us to see familiar faces and meet new ones. We gave out more than 2,000 goodie bags. From dancing with Lucky the Aaron's Furniture Dog to informing a first time mom about gum care for her baby girl, it was a GOLASO event!

Copa Telemundo Soccer Tournament attendees learning about and getting goodie bags from Family Dental of Richmond
Family Dental of Richmond staff at the Copa Telemundo Soccer Tournament
Mom with her son learning about Family Dental of Richmond at the Copa Telemundo Soccer Tournament

Cutting dental coverage might cost states more

There are a couple of states that have an important decision to make regarding adult dental coverage under Medicaid.

Missouri and Illinois face upcoming budget cuts and must decide whether to keep adult dental coverage. If they cut the coverage, will the states actually be saving money? The University of Iowa researched this issue and came up with some interesting findings.

The study from University of Iowa researchers looked at California, which decided to end adult dental coverage under Medicaid in mid-2009. Some 3.5 million low-income adults in the Golden State lost dental benefits. The researchers found those adults made more than 1,800 additional visits annually to hospital emergency departments for dental care after losing the benefit. In all, California spent $2.9 million each year in Medicaid costs for dental care in emergency departments, up from $1.6 million before the state eliminated the adult dental care benefit. That's a 68 percent increase in costs, when factoring inflation.

Other states had similar results when they cut adult dental benefits. Oregon almost doubled its emergency room dental visits and Maryland saw a 12 percent rise in such visits.

Emergency rooms aren't equipped to solve most dental problems. Most ER's don't perform extractions or root canals. They only provide pain medicine. This of course, does not take care of the problem. Plus, these visits are more costly than a trip to the dentist.

The people that have their benefits cut tend to be those in the lower income bracket.

Young adults, members of racial/ethnic minority groups, and urban residents were disproportionately affected by the change, the researchers found.

Only 15 states carry comprehensive dental benefits for low-income adults.

Missouri and Illinois have tough decisions to make concerning budget cuts. Cutting adult dental benefits, according to research, might end up costing the states more money for insufficient dental care.

Enhancing social media to serve you better

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a makeover of our online presence. This effort is to showcase how we are improving the lives of families via quality dental care.

This overhaul includes:

  • This website. we made our website simpler to navigate and use and improved the appearance. We also added this blog and will soon add an easier way for families to schedule appointments and find our offices.

  • A new Facebook page. We enhanced the page and are adding content regularly. Stay in touch with us here.

  • A new Twitter presence. We began adding content to a dormant account. You can find us at @Dental_Dreams. The weblink is here.

  • Yelp. We are working closely with Yelp to spruce up our Yelp pages for each office. This is an important platform because more families are finding our offices through Yelp.

Let us know what you think about the changes.

Children with poor dental care suffer in school

There are many reasons why families delay proper dental care. Finances are at the top of the list. What isn't fully comprehended is that this sporadic or absent care has a doubly harsh effect on children.

Published research in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrated that children with dental pain were three times more likely to miss school than their pain-free counterparts.

A summary of the research:

  • Objectives. We examined school days missed for routine dental care versus dental pain or infection to determine the relationship between children's oral health status and school attendance and performance.

  • Methods. We used 2008 data from the North Carolina Child Health Assessment and Monitoring Program. The study sample, weighted to reflect the state's population, included 2183 schoolchildren. Variables assessed included school absences and performance, oral health status, parental education, health insurance coverage, race, and gender.

  • Results. Children with poor oral health status were nearly 3 times more likely (odds ratio = 3.89; 95% confidence interval = 1.96, 7.75) than were their counterparts to miss school as a result of dental pain. Absences caused by pain were associated with poorer school performance (P < .05), but absences for routine care were not. Mediation analyses revealed that oral health status was associated with performance independent of absence for pain.

  • Conclusions. Children with poorer oral health status were more likely to experience dental pain, miss school, and perform poorly in school. These findings suggest that improving children's oral health status may be a vehicle to enhancing their educational experience.

Any distraction is detrimental for our children in school. The above study confirms how important dental health is for them. We never want our kids to hide their beautiful smiles and we sure don't want them in any pain. We all perform better when we feel good and when we are confident.

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.

Emergency rooms replace proper dental care

The current trend of Wisconsin residents using the emergency room for their dental needs is on the rise. Wisconsin residents are not alone. This trend is nationwide.

A recent report from Wisconsin Public Radio, quoting the Health Policy Institute, showed a nationwide trend of emergency room visits for dental care at a rate higher than emergency room growth overall.

In Wisconsin, the number of emergency department visits for non-traumatic dental complaints increased 20 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to the state's Department of Health Services' Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 Baseline and Health Disparities Report.

The numbers across the United States are also on the rise, according to various surveys.

What do these alarming statistics mean? Well for one thing, it means higher dentist bills for the patients. Emergency rooms charge much more than dentist offices.

The patients also receive less preventative care at the ER. Often the ER will only do "patchwork" type medical care rather than actually treating the cause of the problem. All this while costing more for the patient. Here is one such example from a Madison, WI man, according to Wisconsin Public Radio's report:

Joe Seals, a 44-year-old Madison man, was recently in the ER for a filling that fell out. The pain was so bad that he avoided chewing on one side of his mouth for a whole year.

"Nothin can get in (the other side)," said Seals. "As soon as something gets in there, it drives me nuts."

Seals said he was prescribed penicillin and pain pills — hydrocodone — in the ER, then was referred to a free clinic, the Madison Dental Initiative, for follow-up care.

Even more troubling is that many of the ER patients are young people. It becomes a habit that continues into young adulthood.

"It's younger people," said Paul Levine, a dentist in southeast Wisconsin and president of the Wisconsin Dental Association. "Older individuals generally have their dental home established. Younger people, that age group, seems to think they're invincible and won't have any problems."

Even young children with baby teeth can have severe tooth problems. Dentists and pediatricians now recommend that children see a dentist at age 1 instead of 3.

Dental care shouldn't be a luxury. Dental care is just as important as your visiting your eye doctor or general physician. Going to the ER is a bad solution for all involved, including taxpayers.

Policy choices end up hurting families, government budgets

Many middle- and lower-income people face difficult decisions when in it comes to dental care. Living paycheck-to-paycheck forces families to use their money for only immediate needs. Preventive dental care, unfortunately, often gets put on the back burner.

The results of delaying dental care can be financially devastating — both to the families and government budgets.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, the cost of emergency dental care versus having regular preventative dental care is staggering.

A recent Pew Center for the States study found that preventable dental problems were the primary reason for more than 800,000 emergency room visits nationwide in 2009 — up 16 percent from 2006. The same study found that Chicago-area hospitals received nearly 77,000 visits from patients with non-injury dental ailments from 2008 to 2011.

And the Chicago Dental Society said in a 2013 report that the prospects of the uninsured and underinsured to receive affordable treatment was dismal and on the decline.

For example, the study found that dental providers with the Cook County Department of Public Health served nearly 11,900 patients in 2000, but had resources to treat fewer than 5,000 in 2009. By 2011, more than half of those surveyed said they had delayed dental treatment for financial reasons.

What's the future in dental care for lower income families? Families could turn to the state. The state does have a history of funding dental benefits for lower income adults. They also have a history of cutting those benefits.

Just three years ago, Illinois' Medicaid dental care program was cut in a series of "reforms" ex-Gov. Pat Quinn said would "rescue the state's Medicaid system from the brink of collapse."

Two years later, Quinn and lawmakers restored the program with the acknowledgement that the original action was counterproductive because taxpayers paid significantly more because families used emergency rooms for care — a more costly path of service.

"A lack of dental care for low-income adults has always been an issue in the state," said Jeanne Winsted Rosser, social services administrator for New Trier Township, which launched its own modest dental assistance program after learning from residents that many lacked insurance. "When the state makes budget cuts to dental programs, they're not always thinking of the big picture."

In a perfect world we all could afford dental care on our own. Life sometimes has other plans. It's difficult to prioritize expenses when there is a limited amount of money coming in. Worrying about our bills day-by-day, week-by- week is a hard way to live. In the long run however, it is much less expensive to take a preventative stance on dental care.

Welcome to our information center

As you may have noticed, Dental Dreams has undergone a facelift designed to serve families better. Our website has been redesigned and more changes are underway, such as a revamped social media presence, and features to come that will make your interaction with our offices more helpful and speedy.

On this blog, you will find information about family dental health from around the country that will keep you informed about new procedures, practices, studies and news. You will also find company news that will better inform you on how we strive everyday to provide top quality dentistry to you and your family.

So stay tuned for future posts and don’t hesitate providing feedback on the type of information you’d like to see!