Consumer Reports: Cost biggest reason for dental care delay
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The biggest reason for delaying dental care is cost, according to a Consumer Reports survey that asked readers to describe the dental health and cosmetic treatments they received in the last five years.
Cost was cited as a barrier by 43 percent of readers who delayed care. The survey also reveals that only a third of readers are brushing and flossing when they should, and that some patients might be paying for treatments they don't need, such as teeth whitening, amalgam filling replacement, unnecessary restorations, precautionary removal of wisdom teeth, X-rays and surgery for TMJ disorder.
Seventeen percent of respondents who had a dental procedure for health reasons said they delayed it, notes the report. Even readers with insurance put off a treatment they needed; 23 percent did so because insurance wouldn't cover the procedure, and 24 percent because they had already used up the maximum that their insurance plan would cover for the year.
According to Consumer Reports, there are several ways consumers can keep costs down or get by without insurance:
• Shop around and bargain. Look up typical insurance rates in your area at FairHealthConsumer.org and HealthCareBlueBook.com, then ask providers to accept that amount, or less, as a cash payment.
• Consider free and low-cost clinics and health centers. Some community health centers offer dental care with fees based on the ability to pay. Consumers should call their local health department to find one nearby. Be prepared to encounter waiting lists in some locations.
• Look into dental and dental-hygienist schools. Consumers who are willing to be treated by supervised students can avail themselves of schools that offer free or discounted care to the public. A list of schools is available at ada.org/267.aspx.
• Investigate dental discount plans. For an annual membership fee of around $50 to $100, one can get access to a network of dentists who have agreed to discounted rates. But CR recommends that consumers watch out for pricey add-ons and extra procedures they don't need.
The report notes that having dental insurance is better than not having it, especially if an individual's insurance is job-based. But don't expect free or nearly free care. CR's survey found that of the 71 percent of respondents who had dental insurance, 90 percent received some sort of coverage, but only 46 percent said it covered more than half of the cost.
First Published June 17, 2012 12:00 am