According to a statewide Delta Dental of Virginia survey, 35% of adults still feel hesitant to return to the dentist. Also, more than half of Virginians postponed or missed dental visits as a result of the pandemic last year.
With decreasing mask mandates and the gradual return to normalcy, though, Delta Dental said it is encouraging Virginians to return to the dentist to guard against the potentially painful consequences of neglected preventive care.
“We spent the last year with our smiles covered. Now, as many of us begin to remove our masks, it’s a perfect reminder that we need to take care of those smiles,” said Dr. Brad Guyton, chief dental officer for Delta Dental of Virginia.
“Preventive care is crucial to maintaining physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and putting off a routine visit is doing more harm than good. Dentist offices are safer than ever, and there is really no reason to postpone that visit,” said Guyton.
Conducted on May 26 and May 27, the survey also found that despite lingering COVID-19 concerns, nearly 73% of Virginians do plan to visit the dentist two or more times over the next 12 months, and nearly 94% plan to visit at least once.
Those with dental insurance are more likely to visit the dentist, with 79% of insured Virginians saying they plan to visit the dentist two or more times over the next 12 months, while 57% of those who are uninsured plan to do so. Meanwhile, 17% of the uninsured said they do not plan to visit the dentist at all.
According to Delta Dental’s 2020 State of America’s Oral Health Report, only about one in two Americans understand that oral health is closely linked to several medical conditions, including strokes, diabetes, dementia, and high blood pressure. The report also notes that:
- The average number of cavities per child increased from one to two.
- Children missed 4.5 days of school due to oral health issues in the past 12 months.
- 77% of parents worry that oral health issues will have a negative impact on their child’s confidence.
- 51% of adults faced unwanted consequences as a result of oral health issues, including lost sleep and missed work.
- 26% said that not having dental insurance was the reason they failed to visit the dentist in 2020.
Most dental plans cover regular checkups at 100%, Guyton said, so there is really no reason for people with insurance to skip those visits. Meanwhile, 77% of Virginians feel that having dental insurance is a good motivation to maintain positive oral health.
“For many Virginians, employer-sponsored dental benefits may not be an option,” said Guyton. “Carriers, such as Delta Dental and others, offer individual plans at various price points, and the uninsured should certainly check out the federal health benefits exchange for other options.”